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I Sing to Myself While Driving to Indianapolis Airport

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"Loving anybody and being loved by anybody is a tremendous danger, a tremendous responsibility." - James Baldwin

 A native of Radford, Virginia, Lisa Kwong is the author of Becoming AppalAsian. Her poems have appeared in A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, Still: The Journal, Pluck!, and other publications. She teaches Asian American Studies at Indiana University and English at Ivy Tech Community College. 

Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Lisa, what poems have you brought for us today?

 

Childhood Fade in Litany

 

Behind the crisscross fence I thought home was a safe place.

The door’s lock loosened. I questioned home as a safe place.

Ngin Ngin took insulin shots and I looked away.

 

Ngin Ngin had a stroke. Home was no longer a safe place.

 

Main Street emptied of traffic and home was a safe place.

Smashed beer bottles kept littering the driveway.

Desperate men played lottery at Pak-n-Sak.

 

I watched her bones become landscape.

Ngin Ngin had another stroke. Home was not a safe place.

 

Girls cried at the strangeness of incense.

Smoke tendrils crawled down our throats.

My sister and I secretly went to the graveyard.

 

I questioned God. I asked why home was not a safe place.

Lightning squeezed my hand and home became a safe place again.

I cried at Ngin Ngin’s tomb and used to think home was a safe place.

 

My grief grew a noose. I touched the letters on the tomb.

 

I Sing to Myself While Driving to Indianapolis Airport 

 

My choir teacher said I was an alto, meaning 

I can’t scale cathedral ceilings with a whistle  

register like Mariah. Forget notes 

 

only dogs can hear. I was never meant to pop 

a lung, belting ballads with Whitney bombast. 

I sing in my car with its broken CD player. 

 

When crossing county lines and corn fields, 

the radio’s no use with its static and blurring 

of country, pop, and rap. When I sing along 

 

to the divas, I am glittering on stage, 

serenading my unrequited, or I am the star 

of my own music video, men chasing after me 

 

in rainy streets but never catching up. 

On this trip, I am trying to perfect  

“Part of Your World,” the mermaid’s wish 

 

to be human. I remember the summer  

before fourth grade when I heard that song 

for the first time. Even then I said, 

 

I sing just like Ariel! 

There is always desire to be 

someone else, everywhere else.  

 

I want to be part of a world where dress size 

doesn’t dictate the stares of strangers, where 

leisure and slowness are not dirty words. 

 

I want more . . . to be where the people are. 

I don’t want to be with people who make me 

belly flop on rocks, who make me feel 

 

like a porcupine in a tutu. I sing the song 

of wanting to transcend history 

when I sat zippered lip in class 

 

and couldn’t measure up to the calculus  

geniuses who shared my black hair 

but not my size 16 waist. 

 

 S'mores and Smoke

 

In the pumpkin patch

air, a fire snaps as

speared marshmallows

glide in and out. Flames

catch these delicious clouds,

 

smoke-kissing them

until they melt, perfect

between the snug hug

of graham crackers

and milk chocolate.

 

The man with hazelnut hair

and a sunshine heart

kneels and roasts

the perfect marshmallow.

A toasted blush,

 

it plummets.

 

Wearing a boyish frown,

he rubs away phantom tears

with his right knuckle

as the perfect marshmallow sinks

into its dry grass and dirt demise.

 

Gone quick as a leaf twirl,

its loss lingers like smoke-smell

on our jackets, like daily heartbreaks

we carry on a roasting stick.

 

You've been listening to the poetry of Lisa Kwong on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.

Indianapolis Intl Airport tower

(Redditaddict69, Wikimedia)

"Loving anybody and being loved by anybody is a tremendous danger, a tremendous responsibility."
- James Baldwin

A native of Radford, Virginia, Lisa Kwong is the author of Becoming AppalAsian. Her poems have appeared in A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, Still: The Journal, Pluck!, and other publications. She teaches Asian American Studies at Indiana University and English at Ivy Tech Community College. 

Today, Lisa reads "Childhood Fade in Litany," "I Sing to Myself While Driving to Indianapolis Airport," and "S'mores and Smoke."

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