This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Chia-Lun Chang.


We’re Your Parents

He was in love, he spent decades figuring it out,
our father, who ended up spending a quarter of his monthly salary on an electronic dictionary.
The sexy AI volunteers, pronounces, creates another man, a foreign man, a respected man,
a free tour guide.

Father said, leave Sun-Moon Lake, come back as an outsider, witness your cousin’s wedding and see the couple burn their charred love. We live next to the lake, so we are always fine.

We buried our father too many times, each time we went deeper, his face went colder,
and the signal weaker.

Father commanded, leave before I cut your last bit of tongue, rape you, train you to sit and look into our eyes as if from the bottom of the well. When you leave, close the door without making a sound. Sounds grate my blood.

I came to United States for love. When men asked about my past, I replied, father said we must not talk about

feelings. I practice the man coming into me by holding a breathe under the water. We’re tight and they’re satisfied.

She was in love, she spent decades discovering it,
our mother, who ended up spending a quarter of her life practicing to dress properly, covering
her black skull, burned legs and scars—milky lakes, pinky shores. She learned to be deaf
while her boss came in. We taught our mother to build her name too many times, each time
she became a shalom, she commanded,

have you found your love. I cut part of my language to make love with you. We stand in
front of the sticky floor and mop, bread your babies with brownish nipples, get stuck in
traffic while delivering food, drive you to heaven under the rain, cook ramen through the
ocean, translate bad news from the other side to comfort you to sleep, guide you outside and
on the phone and paint your nails rainbow and poison. At night, we smoke under bloody
stars because we have endless love for you. We’re your father and mother this year.

I dream of my babies becoming Marco Rubio and Obamacare.
I slap my son’s face when gene deletion affects his pronunciation.

When I smell perfume, I call home and tell them the scent tastes different from goji berries.
When I smell cologne, I call home and tell them my man comes home next lake.



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