Names of Leftover Men and Women
In Chinese, idioms are four characters.
Only the flatness of a tongue keeps
four(sì) from bleeding into death (sǐ).
Each family knows the difference—
rain-slick boulevard streets, carpets
of flattened millipedes. Uncle slips
open the apartment window, watches
beyond beer belly as hills knuckle
into fishless rivers. My cheeks ripple
too loosely when I laugh; my grandparents
eye me, say I’ve gained weight. They’re refusing
to un-teeth & I’m noticing mosquito-infested ponds,
how the wounds here are raised & livid
on skin, as if hiding larvae that can’t sleep.
The cities, swimming in shadow, bring Uncle
& every other unmarried man
the same wish: a woman to call his own,
jaws from which to unhitch a name
of three characters in a country
mechanized by si. At night,
my grandparents drape a wet towel
onto my bed frame
like a canopy, repeating my name
as if to burnish it.