Doc, there was a hand
Doc, there was a hand, my bed
was pushed across the room,
the wallpaper looked, I drew
faces on the flowers, this one
with closed eyes, and when I woke
they suddenly opened. I watched
my father wash his hands with gasoline,
he always smelled of something
burning. He held out his hands,
twin flames, volcanic rock.
In the room, I mapped out
an archipelago of needs—
mine, then his, then my father’s.
Stray rocks, a map. Doc, you call it
schema, me shut-eyed, my cousin’s
hostile need. I dreamt
my arms were raised. I think
in surrender. I’ve been studying
Freud’s On Dreams, wish fulfillment,
my cousin’s hostile need. He returns
like a wild obsession. (There, like a skein
in my dreams.) Archipelago of desire.
I skip stones, one to another.
My mother’s shame, father’s cold
and brutal shielding. There was
more tenderness in the rain.
I woke with an archipelago
of bruises. It wasn’t my father.
It was a rolodex, scattering
pages. A child’s hips and fingers
long and thick.
Cathy Linh Che’s first book of poems Split will be published by Alice James Books in 2014. She has received fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Kundiman, and Poets & Writers. She currently lives in Brooklyn, where she co-edits the online journal Paperbag.