With love


Poetry Collection: The Eliztenberg Figures for Contemporary Poetry 173C


Delivered in advance, you are formally invited to attend 

a display of disintegration. Before you grab your keys, 

destroy 21 years of evidence of embezzlement.

To speak lightly of derision, 

this family reunion will be a euphemism 

for taking your clothes off midday in a supermarket. 


The present tense. The tense present. 

To keep your grandparents from paroxysm at the table, 

put up your dukes. Put your governors in your nicest room 

and bring them a red sheet and an analgesic wine glass.


Nathan is white as a sheet. He listens to divine syllogisms 

butchered like a suckling pig. 

Those Chinese New Year envelopes are empty like

ascetic ex-pastors hiding their poker bids and

biddable philanderers under the table.

Struck with vermilion, a boiling coloration,

The wholeness darkened by holiness. 


I wish I could stay longer but I’m having an old friend 

for dinner. When I was ten, my dad paid me a 

buck to touch a dead deer. My dear, there was no consolation this time.



Did we ever learn the difference between ignorance and apathy?

Your body is a sentient 1996 Ford Sedan. 

You drive helplessly past the church spire without 

directions, without glasses, without socks.

Acolytes always lift their hands in there, shoot up in there. 


Every Sunday, the vernacular of indigene shrinks itself—

tender with the day’s shame.

Every Sunday, you’ll briefly experience mild discomfort.

It’s a long needle, but its not bad. Take a deep breath and hide. 

You can cover up yourself a bandaid.


Do you want me to put that in the bag? 

I’ll declaw the cat. We declaw our words

so we don’t lose our jobs and our tempers.


I lost the keys to my apartment.

After Nathan joined the church, his hopes 

of the afterlife turned to ash. His 1996 Ford Sedan 

had its fuses cut by an ascetic Facebook status.

I don’t know. I don’t care.



I go to bed in my head. I pay my dues in the form of a poetry assignment.

You can’t come to the party if you’re sad. You can’t come 

if you’re sad. If libidinal lexapro wrote its signature 

on the dotted line, the contract would be doctored.

I must ask you to read the fine print.

Please sign here. 


Tonight, Nathan asks me about dental dams. He uses them 

to cover his tupperware full of chicken 

and he looks at the mirror with derangement.


I told you, it’s like giving a strawberry daiquiri to priest. 

An anathema in disguise. Here’s to hoping

he chugs it in the prayer room, or his bedroom

likened to a synagogue, likened to a confessional booth.

If I said he had a beautiful body, would he

hold it against me?


Cut out the bruised part of the apple like a prolix essay. 

My knife isn’t sharp enough. I bathe in myrrh as an aphrodisiac.

My body is barely mine today. 


Nathan stands over me like a stoplight turning orange.

With my finicky wish for longevity, I go towards the light.

I would like to formally invite you to my funeral. 


A penny for your thoughts, a quarter for your faultless orgasms.



Suburb boys have always had kink for the local jail.

Men have always feared domestic freedom

and the freedom to be homely.

If the idea of home is a penny gun,

it shoots prelapsarian dreams. Learn to address these dreams

as letters to the past, as nostalgia for a hackneyed teddy bear.


In mourning, the present is interrogated 

because of past conflicts and politicians wonder why today 

cracks under pressure and why acolytes bomb 

the federal building. The sky drowns in technological ennui.


Bloated with silence, pre-pubescent suburbs read the first page

of The Hegemony of Survival and use it to prop up their camera phones.

Founded on the backs of ‘otherness’, they don’t know how to hold

their own— drinks in a bar or babies in their million dollar homes. 


We carry them home on our picket signs as a gaggle of sorority

girls swallow up the sidewalk strand. 

We redeem their bodies from medieval scholasticism. 

We try to paint them with divine brushstrokes. 

We try to invoke the divine.



As the story goes, everything was going well.

I could really go for a beer.

If you go, I’ll buy one for you. 

That tie really goes with your suit.

Let’s go now.The tire will go 

flat if you keep driving crazy!

The motor of his car won’t go. We have to go 

home before its too late. They told me you 

would never go for me. It will go 

in your favor if you turn the lights off. Can we go 

all the way? You can’t go 

back on your word now.

How do we go about this without anyone hearing? Go 

slow. Go easy on me, please. Shhh just go 

with the flow. I’m going 

away. He goes by Nathan. We go 

well together. It goes 

without saying, don’t go

telling everyone I’m on anti-psychotics.

Our time has gone 

quickly and I’m going away now. You’ve gone 

to my head. I’ll go to pieces if you don’t finish your coffee.

Go to sleep. But please don’t go yet.



Here’s to “elite apes” and claims of authenticity

and generative grammar.

Here’s to “colorless green ideas sleep furiously”


When the human body claims 

semantical tyranny, 

our ideas will turn will green with envy

at their oblivious counterparts sleeping past one o’clock

until nonsense takes over and the meaning 

becomes deranged.


When the subjunctive seeps in like mustard gas,

I urge you to give Master Bates your last banana,

your last bowl of oatmeal.

When the amnesiac sees itself in the mirror,

I urge you to give Master Bates your dominant hand.


Then, we crash our cars like parties—with sax and violence.

Then, water spreads through our jeans like an infection and soaks

our American Spirits like an anthem for abjection.

Who is going to tell us to change our clothes?

Who is going to mentor us on drowning? 


If Chomsky can rescue us from the imminence of chlorine

and the immanence of faulty lifeguard rafts, he can

tell me if these poems mean something.



Deliver my pizza like bad news.

We talk about self-referential philanderers who are

powered by celebrity memoirs. Consider this my resignation.

We talk only in the infinitive because we never learned how to jump ship.

We preemptively decay at the thought of romantic cubism.


Clarify what you mean by “red herring”. Two little indians

out to sea. They see a red herring and then there were none.

The empty cookie jar definitely wasn’t your wife this time. 


As we fall helplessly into the our armchairs 

and the dissolution of individualism, I fear the empty 

space on the page. The empty space 

between my fingers lets me liken my dogma to an empty coke can.

Religiosity is an abstraction anyways and decreasing the margins

won’t reconcile your father and his sister.


You claim plausible deniability for the spilled blood

on my bed sheets and on my sheet of cookies. The bloody jar is still empty.

I explained the exegesis of putting all your eggs in one basket

to you. You nuked it in the pan. I drop a question

on your ceramic plate and say your name like an unkept promise.



Think of my name as a burning 1996 Ford Sedan.

The hood is smoking. The engine won’t start.

Think of my name as holy water distilled with Svedka.


The shrink wrote my name on the dotted line,

crossed all the boxes, and wrote it like a waiver

for euthanasia. 


This explains the effulgence lurching like a steeple in my throat.

This explains the headaches.

I guess it’s just religious tradition to light candles 

and bathe in bleach.


I count my losses like days. I count my lost bets in order to win.

Nathan stands like a tombstone with a cookie in his hand like a relic.

Instead, I wrote my name in flower stems and hid

the pedals so the funeral attendees couldn’t drive away.


They opened the car door and only found

a fistful of burning incense and lavender petals.


Elizabeth Hsieh