Are They Vampires, or Are They Just Chinese?


We saw you laugh behind your hands when you sold us the house. Narrow, between ocean and crooked tree, garlanded by fog. You thought we were fools. You thought we didn’t hear the buzz of your talk. But we hid our own smiles. We’ll wear your fog like the veils we never had. We don’t like the sun anyways.


We’ve taken a young lover. He has fair hair, eyes the color of the jade our father gave us when we were born. Protection, father said, yoking stones around our necks. Here we’re outrunning old fears, running naked through our ocean and calling your gulls. We emerged goose-pimpled, empty-necked. You heard us howl then; even we can’t recover what’s lost through so many leagues of water. Now we find consolation in our lover’s eyes.


Our lover guesses our age. Eighteen? Twenty? Cracking himself up: Thirty? None of you know how to count the tree rings that circle our knuckles. He compares our pale faces to the moon. Back home we know the moon’s pocked, riddled, hideous with mortar blows. Here we swallow his compliment, swallow his jokes his semen his bland food. We watch him sleep when we can’t, wishing we could see our colors against his in the mirror. His fair hair flames in the dark. Moths, night fliers, hurl against the window, jealous relatives come snooping.


He shows us the ocean. Saying he knows it well. Saying he’s half fish. We pet him, thinking: boy, we flew over the ocean, skimming the froth, cloaked in metal and the stink of transformation. He catches crabs and brings them to us, where we float them in red chili. When he tries to wipe his chin we watch his wrist in our fingers. Don’t, we say, smiling with our teeth. He mistakes one hunger for another. Sweet boy, red stains dripping. Why don’t we eat? We say we’re watching our figures.


We wander your streets armored in sunblock, parasols. Your eyes prick like mosquitoes; you want to see us bleed. But the joke’s on you. We know you watch us laugh, watch our mouths open and wet. Wondering where else we’re pink. We wear long driving gloves even when we don’t drive. And when we do: roof down, swinging over curbs, black hair flung back like silk, like bat wings, like flags snapping beware in language you’ll never understand.


They must have been born with this connection to their hands, to each other, and if that was indeed the case, then why hadn’t I been born with this gift?