I wanted to thank The Poetry Lab and Cathy Linh Che for yesterday’s amazing writing workshop and reading. It’s such a strange emotive feeling to be “literary” back in the home where I grew up… A city with so many triggers, so many small deaths. But, yesterday reminded me that I was doing what I am meant to be doing. It’s such a cliché, but I can’t explain it any other way.
With thanks, I want to share one of the pieces I wrote in Cathy’s life-changing workshop. Thank you Cathy–for the joyful conversations, the sustenance, the friendship, your mother’s delicious cooking, and your writing. Your book, Split, is a radiant light against so many streams of darkness. I am so honored to know you. (And your script poem on your parents’ experiences filming Apocalypse Now? It was so painful, so hilarious, so frighteningly complex in its veracity and truths.)
Perhaps the hardest thing
about returning to Los Angeles is the heat. The heat feels like the color yellow, subtle in its veracity, its shame. Because when I drive down Cabrillo, I pass by the tiny, boxed apartment where his family staged a meeting after he announced our engagement. In secret, we were already married. In secret, we escaped L.A.’s heat for Las Vegas, confessed our love to a wrinkled, white judge who told us this is the kind of love you see in the movies. But the yellow heat followed me for years, from California to South Carolina to Virginia, and was it not a burning, scarlet letter carved in the chest, this yellow, this heat, this simple staged family meeting where I was not there but could imagine his sister placing him in the center of the cramped room, his four siblings and mother hunched in despair, asking him–why, why, why her? When I remember the day I got married, I want to recall instead the taste of the ocean, carry the salt in the air like a burden, run into the waves with my arms spread out, my wings collapsing the entire sky, churning it into blue, green lights that mark what I no longer call home. I dig the memory deep inside the ribcage and pull out a city from another country, birth an existence where abandonment only feels like walking through the world without skin. I was born in abandonment; my mother but a surrogate who pushed me into the world only to leave, to find a place where the yellow heat didn’t follow her too. But what can I do but remember his face: again, his bended knee, his mother’s anxiety-induced heat stroke in the park with those sad congratulatory balloons, his surprise white poster cards where he declared his love with black permanent ink. We drive in his old family car, the gray Honda Accord with the broken window and the front door that won’t open, and the radio soothes the rages inside of the heart cavity like a shell cracked but sealed back together by molted sand. We are laughing. The blue and green lights submerge us in their waters, and we happily drown together like lovers from those kind of movies you hate. I don’t ask him what his family said. I don’t ask him to leave. But we do anyways, fly across the country as if we entered a different world that repeats like an old videotape, like his father’s old large camera which he mounts on his shoulder and records the first time we confessed this yellow love, this scarlet burning in the chest, this scarlet chest.