& like the aunties who pick out the sweetest asian pears at the asian grocery market, i sat by a broken cash register & watched boys, become men, & become boys again. my tongue scorched red by summer, the bomb pops signal to the aunties that i was American. & like baba at the gas station, cold air erupting from his lungs, winter’s chokehold gets tighter. a plume of smoke, & i wonder if it was a cigarette or something else. the door to the gas station opens & closes & the plume of smoke still rises & a baby is screaming or laughing & i am a child & baba says i am a man. am i a child enough? am i a man enough?
& like the boys at school who chew on snickers bars & snicker at the stain of soy sauce on my sweatshirt, i knew i wasn’t American enough. i watched those boys become men too. wrapped in their violence, their silhouettes asked to dance. i cut out my tongue & remade it anew.
& like the lovers on westgate boulevard, i want a man to call me darlin’. entangled bodies, a euphoric end to my family’s song. i still suck on bomb pops & feel the ice crunching between my teeth. a hand against my eck & thankfully baba’s lyrics never start to play. my tongue bleeds gold again & i wonder if finally i might be man enough when a man says, “darlin’, let me see you with those clothes off.”
& like mama when she picks out watermelon, the carnation—the mother flower—withers in our garden, winter’s wrath wrapped around her delicate waist. bugs still eat dying carnations; dying stars still shine. aren’t we made of dead stars? slowly, softly, surely, sadly it all comes to an end.
issue two / celestial
Sonnet for the Dying
Stars in the sky, shine bright and die young, sadly. Chase explosions’ warmth, sprint into the night. Drawn to throw ourselves at the moon, scream madly. To dance in rain and flood your lips with light? If such beauty lost to sweet-bitter time, We do without them, we continue on; And you are ice and star dust, shine at Prime The summer suns debate what lays beyond, Wake and relearn, the patterns of the ended, Upon the sunken graves of shattered space, Recalling silk and spice and songs amended The stars bow down, the moon will tell its grace; Your whispers fall, and stumble into frost I pray and weep—another star was lost.
David Chen is a Chinese-American script and prose writer from Minnesota. His work has been recognized by Novelly, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and YoungArts, and is in Ripple Lit. He is also a co-EiC of Aster Lit (@LitAster on Twitter and @aster.lit on Instagram), and you can find him at @davidsongchen on both Twitter and Instagram.