The Poetry Project

Cindy Gao

a million dead americans isn’t cool you know what’s cool a billion dead americans

in October I am surprised
I had forgotten how pain can make one conservative
impotence privileges the moment of overcoming 
a masculine orientation of misfires

between cigarettes Aki says he feels pity for his little losers
a weakness maybe but that’s just how he is
my brain blurs…

I misread a story about a restaurant staffed by several grandmas
in another angry sleep I see them – the rotating nonnas –
spinning hot and juicy in a tiny shop window 
eat eat mmm come eat!

my period comes and I feel betrayed, newly
the blood spreads…
on the third day I bloat like a rat

some people go out of their way to tell me
I tried
I tried and it didn’t work so I work

[the dream of revolution being the dream of dying a good death 
to atone for the good lives we did not live]

the teacher asks did I WANT TO ELABORATE

yaaa ohh hey hey, yi der ya hey!

back in the black and white days there were two villages along a river
there was a flood coming –
it was historic snow –
a plague of locusts, whatever –
if the village downstream allowed itself to be destroyed the others got to live

by the water everybody gets together to celebrate
they pass around cigarettes and do shots and eat a little pig
some ladies dance casually and haphazardly
the men squat in circles, it’s all cool
kids sit next to their grannies who feed them grease
their plain blue jackets so padded with cotton that when they walk
they shuffle from side to side –
like this! –
like stupid little penguins –
not that they know what those are–
so ready and happy to die –
I mean at least they got one good meal in –

my parents sit back satisfied
so you see communism is a lot like Jesus
if God says do it then you did it
it’s crazy when you think about it

of course they’re wrong
in this story there is no God
no higher power to adjudicate who stays and who goes
just people who must themselves choose to be washed away
and instead of heaven enter history

Issue 17