The teacher at the blackboard
drones on in a language
the students don’t understand,
and don’t want to learn,
fearing the slow death that comes
with years of repetition, and learning
the lines written in his face,
the glum pallor of something long forgotten,
in the hours of tedium,
that one day I will be
brave enough to
hold your hand in public
every time a car comes
by and honks its horn—
it’s not that I’m ashamed
of physical contact
or obnoxious automotive
noises but my heart is still
tender and I can’t handle
what others think about
us when I am still recovering
from the fall I took for you.
The first time you break, you will wonder why no one else
feels the earthquake rumbling inside of you like a monster
waking up from a nap. You’ll stare at your mother who’s still
engulfed in the TV, watch as your father yells at your mom
from the bedroom about something that honestly doesn’t…
My father has engineer eyes. His world
is broken down into measurements and
HTML code. He is an expert with equations,
with the definite. Uncertainty is a different matter.
He is tall. Feet always planted on the ground.
Lungs loud enough that his snores fill the
whole house at night. They are strong,
have learned to breathe the toxic Shanghai air.
Sometimes disasters are not named for people.
Sometimes an asteroid called “Unemployment”
will crash-land into your upper middle-class
backyard, leaving a crater gaping in the ground.
SURVIVAL KIT FOR A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION:
One, a water filter and anything edible
Two, a complete set of Marie’s paint tubes
Three, thirty canvases.
In the event of an apocalypse; the computers
have stopped working. The bridge has
collapsed. The light bulbs have burned out.
And my father traded his engineer eyes for
painter hands. Calculations become color.
Technology to tints. Hardware to hues.
There is more than one meaning
to the phrase “still life”
In between foraging and interviews,
he curls himself up in a basement bomb shelter.
This is his studio. Newspapers strewn
across the table. Prominent job listings
circled in a halo of red acrylic.
Upon the easel, the canvas is sliced to portions.
How many daubs of blue can fit in that corner?
How wide is the spectrum of one square inch?
Precision. Technique. They build together
red and blue and yellow mixing in unity.
When the earth’s water supply dries up,
he will use his sweat to clean the brushes.
When the lingering traces of radiation,
bury themselves under the soil
refusing to let anything grow,
he will sketch a landscape.
When the zombies climb from the grave,
hungering to turn you brain-dead and
purposeless, he will remind you
of all the places worth painting,
of all the faces worth drawing.
When the roof has collapsed on the house,
he will plaster it up with canvases of red.
Brick by brick. ‘Til it turns whole.
When you let him see what Armageddon
looks like, he will take it headfirst
with painter hands and show you just
how beautiful the dust can be.