Ode to the house of the dead uncle I will never know

I will say now that he was not a blood uncle. I only have two of those and they are both still alive, but what is blood anyway but a dispassionately shuffled deck and a hand you cannot discard. When the auntie from two houses down brings over a plastic bag full of blood cubes and the fried floatation bladders of fish in cinnamon broth, what she hands me is not soup, but a hot air balloon, which in the future I will ride across the ocean to return to this house, and by house I mean window screen with a rip that lets the mosquitos in, by which I mean that I am only ever naked at night with the lights off, and by naked I mean I’ve kissed and been kissed on a dead uncle’s mattress and lost myself quietly while the windows were open and my adopted dog howled and the neighborhood dogs answered, back and forth until morning when the carpenters rode their motorbikes to the shop across the driveway and warmed up the saws, which in reality are the 1st through 4th chair of a chamber music ensemble that plays scores composed entirely of gossip from the vegetable stand two corners down. Sometimes, I hear my name in the refrain and wish I could read the sheet music. I left the door unlocked last night; this morning, there is a Styrofoam box of fried rice on the table. I open the lid into my neighbor’s kitchen. I see her surrounded by blue jello cooling in molds shaped like ducks. She slips a full tray into the plastic bag of my heart and they bounce against my ribs while she wraps a rubber band around my chest and cinches it tight.

Woman as Snake, Too Dangerous for Touch, Dragon and Lady, Scaled and Scalding, and then Dead


In an episode of my grandmother’s Cantonese soaps        there was a woman
with poison in her skin                                          her lover burnt his hands
against her beasts
until the night she took    
a potion that took        away      the poison part of her           
she died                       missing that bite in her blood
and he wept into her lips
until the screen blackened.

I should not love her               she is an empty cheongsam that yearns
to be filled
with my body                          her skeleton is a bamboo birdcage    
and her blood is grain             yet I alight to eat                     because I’ve felt the hands    
that built her    
on the contours    of my own bones
I watch her ribs
closing around me       and my heart speeds.                          Inside
my blood         I have a thousand tiny hairs               they are all black
when I am angry         they rush   to the surface of my skin              as spines
fighting with an old love         I looked down             and saw a mosquito
impaled against my forearm
a stranger’s wet blood                                                
dripping across my skin.

Jasmine An comes from the Midwest. Her first chapbook, Naming the No-Name Woman, won the 2015 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize and second, Monkey Was Here, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. She's been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook and Willapa Bay AiR and her work can be found in Stirring: A Literary Collection (October 2015), Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Nat. Brut and Waxwing, among others. Currently, she is an Editor at Agape Editions and pursuing a PhD in English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

Jasmine’s work previously appeared in October 2015.