by Jen Soong
Great Aunt Iris, the one who wore pearls and guzzled pink
gimlets, is dead. The funeral for Pat, our old neighbor
the one with the schnauzer who howled at midnight, was
long. And Uncle Nico, who took you on the log flume
‘til you puked cotton candy pellets, is gone.
Do not hug.
Remember, my boy, when you asked Santa for a set of
toy soldiers and a kingfisher for Christmas? Turquoise
feathers floated above an army of plastic green men on
a patchwork quilt. We took selfies with a dying balsam fir.
Wear a mask.
Your father took a second job at the landscaping company
sandwiched between a crematorium and adult bookstore.
He will likely be late for dinner. Again. He can microwave
a frozen turkey casserole before watching Seinfeld reruns.
Wash your hands.
Let’s make vodka tonics. Forget Siri, I mean, Brie,
a harlot unworthy of your devotion. Troy is a ghost
with a mean sleight of hand. Trickster. Marriage, I
mean, motherhood is the real test. You will see, son.
This is hard for me to admit, Dimple. Yaya and Papu
groomed me in the School of Hard Knocks, now I am
the Empress With No Clothes. They will write myths
about us on onion-skin pages with horsefeather quills.
Pass on Pilates.
Dipping you in the River Styx was a mistake. I was
wrong, baby. I should have listened to the somber face
of a scientist mother frozen on camera, a scream warning
of the virus’ uncaged fury. I apologize, sweetheart.
Soon it will be the holidays. My back gave notice when
I lowered an ornament box from the attic. You will need
to dig another 100,000 graves by spring. Shovels are
on sale at Ace. Pick up more hand sanitizer too.
Six feet apart.
The war is us. We are the blindfolded stallions
thundering toward slaughter. What I mean is, it’s not
too late to call your therapist and take a hot bath.
Put down your shield. Send marigolds instead.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Jen Soong grew up in a small town in New Jersey and now lives in California. An alum of Tin House and VONA, her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Audacity, GAY MAG, Jellyfish Review, Cosmonauts Avenue and Waxwing. She received her MFA in creative writing from UC Davis. Her memoir-in-progress is about family ties, depression and the silences we learn to break. Find her work at jensoong.com.