In The City
By Chen Chen
For Monica Sok
These bridges are a feat of engineering. These pork & chive dumplings
we bought together, before hopping on a train
& crossing bridges, are a feat of engineering. Talking to you, crossing bridges
in trains, eating pork & chive dumplings in your bright boxcar
of a kitchen in Brooklyn, is an engineer’s dream-feat
of astonishment. Tonight I cannot believe
the skyline because the skyline believes in me, forgives me my drooling
astonishment over it & over the fact that this happens,
this night, every night, its belief, glittering mad & megawatt like the dreams
of parents. By the way, is this soy sauce
reduced sodium? Do you know? Do we care? High, unabashed sodium intake!
Unabashed exclamation points! New York is an exclamation
I take, making my escape, away from the quiet snowy commas of Upstate
& the mess of questions marking my Bostonian past.
In New York we read Darwish, we write broken sonnets finally forgiving
the Broken English of Our Mothers, we eat
pork & chive dumplings, & I know, it’s such a 90s fantasy
of multiculturalism that I am
rehashing, bust still, in New York I feel I can tell you how my mother & I
used to make dumplings together, like a scene
out of The Joy Luck Club. The small kitchen, the small bowl of water
between us. How we dipped index finger, thumb.
Sealed each dumpling like tucking in a secret, goodnight.
The meat of a memory. A feat of engineering.
A dream of mother & son. Interrupted by the father, my father
who made my mother get on a plane, a theory,
years of nowhere across American No’s, a degree that proved useless.
Proved he was the father. I try to build a bridge
to my parents but only reach my mother & it’s a bridge she’s about to
jump off of. I run to her, she jumps, she’s
swimming, saying, Finally I’ve learned—all this time, trying to get from one useless
chunk of land to another, when I should’ve stayed
in the water. & we’re drinking tap water in your bright Brooklyn kitchen.
I don’t know what to tell you. I thought I could
tell this story, give it a way out of itself. Even here, in my fabulous
Tony-winning monologue of a New York, I’m struggling to get
to the Joy, the Luck. I tell you my mother still
boils the water, though she knows she doesn’t have to anymore.
Her special kettle boils in no time, is a feat of engineering.
She could boil my father in it
& he’d come out a better person, in beautiful shoes.
She could boil the Atlantic, the Pacific, every idyllic
American pond with its swans. She would.