Three Poems

by Travis Lau

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What Mama Gave Me

Boys belong to their mothers. Cord cut decades ago, but they’ll always share the warm, dark swim.

Bird’s nest,

rock sugar,

an egg,

the recipe for

continuing a wish

made ab ovo by a

fortune teller on

Temple Street

because that is

where all inklings

of a child begin,

even before it

gathers into a

bundle of colic.

Like Tristram,

I arrived: riotous,

for the shock of

the world was

upon me, yet

I was not alone

for she,

once bedridden,

did command me

to her side until

I conformed

to the way of

grandpa’s fingers:

penitential ambling.

I too would take

the needles,

for what they saw

dammed in me –

push and pull, for

something has to give,

even if it is my frame.

The weight of infidelities –

of frames refusing to hold,

of a generation’s cruel

optimism enfleshed

in me, braying

against my mother’s

rosary of lopsided prayers.

Yet we share this

deviant will

that shapes our form,

that excludes us from the

dreams that Grandma’s

insomnia prevents her

from ever having.

I count the change

thrown into the casket:

all these wishes

unfulfilled.


Homecoming

Welcome is // the momentum of // a fallen crabapple, // a rolling decay // that marks the // years I spent // down the road, // yearning for // something just // a little sweeter. // I have learned // since to greet // what rots, for // it feeds what // I have trained // my eyes no longer // to see – // these circularities, // these ripples that // I left in // the silken skin // of my own primordial // waters that // once murmured of // what will be.// Yet I // feel now // like a brazen // interrupter, a kind // of non sequitur // in the consistent //grammar of things // here in the barest // of fields. // (Homecoming is the // rudest of processes.


Christmas Eve

The whirl of fire’s kin:

Dawn’s tracings,

her choreography

in the patterns

he once taught

me (lightened

lines like conduits)

as a soft power

never claiming

to solidity. So I

keep pace as she

commands, (liquid

steps, a goddess

light in the form

of a memory) until

I am begged by

another flame.


TRAVIS CHI WING LAU is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Department of English. His research interests include long eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, the history of medicine, disability studies, body studies, and gender and sexuality studies. His creative writing has appeared in Westwind, Thistle, Spires, Feminine Inquiry, Wordgathering, Synaesthesia, and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Handtype Press, 2015).

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