Family Means

He hears first the family name,
the bitter slur itself, congealing
once out, like an uneasy footfall
on the frosted ground, a thawing,
its rising not unlike the slumbering
chest of his little brother;

Jerry doesn’t see
the way he does yet;
every movie a war movie,
every movement its own.

Issuing out into the air is smoke,
its source no ordinary flame
but breath,
from a candle just extinguished,
no, incense;
is it the voice of his ancestors
that speaks now?

is there something
intergenerational in his resolve when
he squares his shoulders and spits
teeth?

or does he remember wrong in his
yearning,

his tendriled imaginings of
gilded legacy no more than
a toy; a façade; sinister;

did he forget how the faces
of those whom he loved
and the ones before,
turned away
the day he forgot the name
of his own mother;

for he never ran the fields of salmon;
for he never felt the golden bomb.

Instead, there are Jerry’s blinking eyes,
soft, in them the old fear he

himself once knew, his
noble swinging useless, worse,

furthering the distance
from all that is left to him,

for they have no visible demons,
or if they did they were long gone,
or if they do then only the ordinary kind.

He grimaces, and explains to Jerry
that this, is what family means.

Victor Xia is a high school junior from Seattle, Washington. He has attended the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and his work is forthcoming or has been published by Crashtest, The Live Poets Society, and The Poetry Juicebox. He believes in the power of mutual understanding, the value of a good film, and in reading more.

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