A poem is supposed to make me
   mine, but I think too
much about my mother
   and the summer in Baltimore
when she guzzled an entire margarita
   pitcher too easily and on the way
back in the cab, tipped her neck
   out of the window as if snapped
at her stem and vomited. The cursor
   continues to throb into the distant
pulse of the girl who cried seeing
   her mother rocking to the locker-
jammed lullaby of her father arguing
   with the driver over the damage
from her body’s unintended honesty.
   In the moments that I pause
while writing this poem, I will still circle
   my arms around her stomach, linger
against her side like a pressed piano
   key. Because I know my mother
as who she refuses she is, I retell
   her name to rinse its rust
off. Before she sleeps, I turn the stars
   off to watch the line of shōchū glow
the melted shard of a halo beneath
   her lips. Whenever her liquor
has each of her breaths on a leash,
   I begin to hear the clacking
of her biting her fingernails.
   She ruins until she returns
as the orchard I fail to fantasize
   about, her red eyes spoiled enough
to topple out of their wooden
   coffins. While I lather her hair
in the shower, I tell her that the pale
   birthmark on the back of her
neck will be how I look for her
   throughout her weather.
I shipwreck each word that almost
   arrives at her, wait
for each set of our porcelain
   laughs to swell with seawater.
Even as twilight won’t stop
   muscling into the tenderness
of a talon, I will always love her
   knowing I’m listening. Mama,
because you circle your arms
   around me like the neck of a bottle
of shōchū, let me be
   the only way out of yourself.

Sarah Yang is a Japanese-Korean-American writer in New Jersey. Her poetry has been awarded by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, and National Poetry Quarterly. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Barren Magazine, wildness, Whale Road Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Yes, Poetry.

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