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Ode to

— Cathy Linh Che

I broke a dish
against the floor and called
it family. Shut the window
to seal in my loneliness.
Beyond the moonlight,
there was me in a Los Angeles
kitchen, being fed by Lorenzo,
who nearly died of pneumonia
days before. I watched as
he slept on his bed, his head
atop the pillow,
the red flush, I hoped, of health.
I’m telling you now that the brown
beams of his arms
anchored us, as he whistled
(what is that sound?)
through his teeth and told me,
Cathy es la bonita.
I want to tell you a story
of my body: I did not believe
myself to be beautiful.
I stood and smiled
at the camera. I watched the
sun stare back, unblinking.
Only the tortilla’s steam.
The carne and the gristle, tang
of onion releasing into my throat.
Though money claps its hands
in applause, though my brothers
praise its dirty, green scent,
I think of love, of home,
the not-yet-gone afternoon,
when I was returned
to eat, to drink—to a time
when home was here, and leaving
seemed unfathomable.


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