Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Cadence Chung’s ‘arrow / town’

arrow / town

I was born out of love, or at least half-love
necessity-love, only-way-we’ll-get-out-alive
sort of love, only half better than wanton. I
asked my father if my great-grandmother loved
her husband that she didn’t get to choose, and he
told me well, they had ten children. Ten
children seems to me more like a curse. Ten
rips in the skin, ten lives, ten wet tears in
the petty space time gives us, your name on
their tongues as they cry. I lack a common tongue
with my ancestors, but even so I know they ask
me to smile. I owe my ancestors happiness. I owe
them proof that they did not suffer in vain. I view
the sunsets and dive into lakes wearing petticoats
just to look at the sky in the opposite of spite, to
show them I am doing something with the time
they gave me. When I went to an old Chinese
settlement, a mother with her kids presented the
mud houses, the scrappy shipping-container roofs.
People lived here, she said. Her tone was that
of a real estate agent, selling them the world, or
at least an easy-to-stomach history. I prefer to
say it like a prayer, in a soft, lonely rhythm:
people lived here. People lived here. People lived here.

Cadence Chung is a poet, student, and musician from Wellington. She draws inspiration from Tumblr posts, antique stores, and dead poets. Her debut poetry chapbook anomalia is coming out in March/April 2022.

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