Your fingers bent into an anemone heart
you clutch a pencil, bare down—
draw lines left to right, up then down,
strokes for dollars.
Hours pressed into your body until you whimper for sleep.
The woman who pats your forehead,
brings you soup and petal-shaped fruit
cradles her daughter in a phone
and nervously moves to a raised eyebrow.
You learn to cheat and lie,
feel guilt on bended knee
swallow everything and wait for leaves
to unfold from your fingers
reaching for a sky that promises blue
beyond the gray your father painted
following his father before him.
Your mother punishes you with gifts
from Disneyland and rewards you with prizes
of plastic, plush and pink.
After a tragic mistake or two
you marry a man who makes the sky
blacker than it has ever been
who places you in a tower that frowns upon
parents who gave you Jockey Club Sundays
but time passes
and as your daughter grows
with lungs the size of peanuts
you vow to marry her
to a man who creates a sky that spews chemicals
that burn her skin and to prepare
you bend your daughter
into tentacle knots of obedience
so hard and small
she can barely keep her head outside of
the tight ball and gasps between music lessons
and swimming lessons and drawing lessons and vitamins
and then one night
you think that maybe you
should have bound her feet
as it might have been
easier than binding
Published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal in September 2014.