Back to Issue Thirty-Four

Fathers, Theirs and Mine


Finalist for the 2020 Adroit Prize for Poetry


If I were not a girl, maybe I would be
a lamb. Not the type Father buys
at the supermarket, red and fleshy
with the bone still attached,
(which, when grilled bloodless,
makes him feel more American),
but the kind that Jesus was:
a mouth full of wool to prevent the English
from coming out wrong,
and white all over.

I wonder if Father believes in Christ,
in a savior. If he does, he certainly doesn’t
picture a white man—
let alone a lamb.

Where Father is from, lambs ripen for slaughter
in early October. Now that he lives in the liminal space
between oceans and has learned to speak another language,
which sits thickly underneath his old tongue,
he still refuses an animal as a god.

So instead of a savior, he talks about stocks
and Tesla and tries to figure out a Canon camera.
“If I can master it,” he tells me, “I’ll take pictures
of you, eighteen and beautiful, and keep them
here with me, once you leave.”

Perhaps one day he’ll really do it, just like
how he believes he’ll learn to speak English
without the accent, work out his r’s and l’s
and order from Panera without help. He’s made
a lot of promises; something about America
makes him feel bigger, more powerful.

It must be the lamb—Father and I sit
across from each other at the dinner table
and eat lamb chops, and as his teeth
sink into the warm flesh,
I think of who we would be
if we worshipped them instead.



Zodiac Year of the Lamb



Mother, in her slight accent,
calls olives “Oliver.”
She loves Oliver, brine
salty in her mouth.
Almost twenty-five years in America
and she cannot differentiate
between a man and a fruit,
but what is the difference, really?
Both are green,
hollow on the inside.
We eat until our cheeks are full
and pretend to be satisfied:
Oliver in our stomachs, something
similar to a stone, but softer,
like a half-dissolved body.
Oliver between our hips,
Mother and I buy red clothing for the winter.
She calls everything beautiful,
mispronounces the word at uneven
intervals, but says it right
when she looks at me, hair braided
into a facsimile of the girl she used to be.
You’re just like me, she says.
Beautiful, like me.
She is wrong, and I never know
how to tell her.
Our lips and our throats match,
but our tongues have no relation.
Her stomach growls.
I pose for her.

Grace Wang is a senior at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana. Her work has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hyphen Magazine, the Interlochen Review, Columbia College Chicago, and the Indiana Repertory Theatre. In the fall, she will begin her freshman year at Harvard College.

Next (Alex Zhang) >

< Previous (Kit Pyne-Jaeger)