I love the sound of language. Beautiful words, powerful rhythms, and the passionate ideas that can unfold from inside them. Is it any wonder I’m fascinated by poets? I’d forgotten for a while how much I loved poetry until my older two daughters – the Book Princess and the Conductor – introduced me to spoken-word poetry. That art form has already produced some stars, notably Sarah Kay and Taylor Mali. But there are so many more yet to be discovered. I realized that when the Conductor recently took a poetry class, and brought home some of the poems a classmate shared. All I could say was, “Wow.” So I asked him if he’d mind sharing one of his poems with a bit of a wider audience. Thankfully, he said yes, so here is “Cindy” by up-and-coming poet Kevin Chen.
We are pendulums,
living on opposite sides of our father’s clock
you were born on midnight,
with both hands already
raised in a solemn surrender.
you were the 4th child of 6.
moved to the united states when you were 5
and met a familiar man who smelled like stir-fry cigarettes
who you’d later call dad at 6
became a makeshift matriarch at 15
Then a full time cashier for our dad’s carryout at 18
your hands have never stopped moving.
I remember that night
when you told me, that your whole life
felt like a fraction.
4 out of 6
Like an inverted hourglass that nobody bothered to turn
they told you to keep your mind in the numerator
and your matter on the denominator
but you told me you were never good with math.
You preferred art,
growing up–in an empty house,
I used to watch your hands
hang like primary colors.
Your hands dancing
like kaleidoscopes across canvas
you were a cartographer,
mapping the intersections between blue
and red and red and blue,
you were painting a cross section of your chest
a sprawling metropolis of arteries and veins
it’s no wonder you left an “x” in the space between your lungs
as if you could solve for it by plugging in numbers and numbers and numbers
you told me you were never good with math.
I remember when you started painting black,
twirling on the axis of midnight,
When the rods in your eyes melted like cavities
when you too started smelling like stir fry cigarettes
you told me that the sum of all colors
would always be black.
I remember the day you stopped painting,
you told me you were looking for a rainbow
one that wasn’t anchored in pots and woks
behind kitchens at carryouts,
you were looking for a reason to believe
that rainbows could exist without the gold.
I remember the day you met a boy,
one that made you feel top heavy
so you fell head over heels
for a man with a prism heart
two partial fractions.
I’ve come to the realization that
I was never good with math either
I could never get my order of operations right
I have this habit of subtracting before adding
taking and never giving
We haven’t said more than a word to each other in years,
but lately i’ve found myself wanting to be more honest,
no metaphor will ever be a suitable
for the three words i never said to you
when you needed me the most
So let’s start over,
Have I told you that I’ve given up trying to be an accountant?
these days I’d much rather be a stormchaser
like one of those guys on the Discovery Channel
I want to dive headfirst towards the nearest twister
and set a picnic in the eye of the storm
i’d like you to meet me there,
with rods and cones in hand
we will find that rainbow.