Chinese Love Song

She is quick to giggle, riddled
with unanswered questions:

is it he, him, his character?
His whiteness,

white for privilege
and power? Or that inside

he quivers?
She giggles, forgetting

her mother had said
giggling was unseemly

for such an ugly girl –
her mother was honest that way,

and nearly fainted seeing him on her arm.
Around the corner, always corners

of what she shows him,
he wonders

what she sees. Shy and unaccustomed
to attention, or being teased,

hidden chords of his body
thrum. Yellow fever,

friends winked, laughing at him.
He blushes. It’s true:

The heart burns to kill, as if fevered,
when it is uncertain.

My friends call me Small Eyes,
but you can call me Dana,

she said in their first meeting.
He snorted. Together,

with her giggle,
they form this song’s hook, like

love love love.
What do you hear?
he asked

that first night with her pressed deep.
She was too scared to say.

Maybe another day.
She’ll recall picking lentils

and he’ll teach her Magic:
The Gathering
, Black Lotus manna

for Disintegrate; she a creature
immune to sorcery.

Future nights
with movies, streamed TV,

photographs on trips taken,
disagreements negotiated,

boring things, unsettling things,
other things that must be completed.

Hopefully they remember to laugh.
Their beautiful children will inherit it.

Anthony Tao’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kartika Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and the Anthill. He currently lives in Beijing, where he edits the news/society/culture blog Beijing Cream. Follow him on Twitter: @anthonytao.

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