The First Law of Motion
BY PAUL TRAN
An object in motion stays in motion
From the photograph of us in the kitchen
I cut my father’s face. The denim shirt
hugging his sun-scorched skin. His hands on my shoulders
as I blow out the two .99 candles.
Was it a surprise
I turned out like him?
Exacting. Stubborn. Attention-seeking. Resentful of longing
I could not sate. My mind
a dull knife sharpened by a dull knife
until both dulled further, dividing
into perfect triangles the cake. My heart
a cabinet door swung open
to reveal plates neatly stacked
and then slammed shut.
I sought to determine how and what
he left. The impact on me
it had. Would have. Continues even now to have
despite the control I’ve sought to establish
over everyone and everything, including my longing
for control…Yet I couldn’t
cut him from me. Cut me from him.
At the same speed and in the same direction
By what force will my longing be stopped?
Time. Distance. Clarity.
Even after he turned from me, after he reached for
and stuffed into my mouth
the white towel, the last thing
from that night
I remember, the man
—whose hesitancy resembled my father’s
the afternoon my father left
me at the park with a box of leftover KFC—
failed to stop
the pattern of recklessness. Wretchedness. Wreckage. Regret
brought on by my longing, my failure
to locate the regret and the longing
beneath that. I took the knife. The scissors. The shears.
Anything to carve past
the past, the body I hated
because I was not so much exhausted as I was
just bored of feeling everything and nothing
at all. At once. At last,
gash after gash, I reached inside.
Wrists. Hips. Thighs. I found
not the source of my regret. Not the force to stop it.
Until acted upon by an unbalanced force
All night I wait for the cactus flower to bloom.
I wait, as if the cactus flower and the night both know
I’m waiting, asking also to bloom not in spite of light
but simply in darkness, to bloom that simply, briefly, almost
randomly, and then immediately to wither without return.
I’m asking to live like that. I’m asking—after a life of asking
for permanence, for another chance to prove
the consequence of longing isn’t always regret,
that longing to control my life means not controlling longing
but letting go of regret, longing, and consequence
so I could be free, set myself free even of letting go and waiting
for permission—to live. Immediate. Random. Brief.
Nothing blooms. Nothing withers. Only the knowledge
that there’s a difference between letting go and setting free.