For twenty years, I’ve been breaking my jaw on the laws
in my father’s house, which is as large and hard-shelled
as his sclerotic heart, until my teeth are dethroned
from their cheap seats and turn the colour of early dusk.
I never ask my blood Why when I see it—a bright-red
treacherous smear on the white wall—afraid that
it’d be the wrong question to ask. But isn’t any kind of
questioning wrong in this house, every desire of mine filthy
and illicit? My father regrets my birth, his mouth birthing
the verdict of guilty against everything I hold dear.
Always, concrete and cinderblocks meet my bones
when I try to teach my body to be tender. Always, I pledge
and press my mouth to the light I’ve invited in through
the window before realizing it’s the wrong kind of light (Fire!
Fire!) and it slices through the skin like a scalpel. I shelter
every lovable thing under the hot coal of my tongue—the navel
of another boy coiled like a serpent, asleep, his luscious
nipple the only fruit I was forbidden to eat—but nothing
ever stays still and it aches the way the sky aches on
a clear day for the rain. My father says the house itself
is an answer, a revelation that cracks clear in broad
daylight like lightning through a willow. But why is it
that I still wake up every morning with a monolith
tethered to my diaphragm, my breathing tied down
by the foundation of this edifice? I see my father’s sword
sitting sharp and agleam on his mantle, daring not to imagine
what he has severed with it, and what he hasn’t.
Gavin Yuan Gao is a Brisbane-based poet who was educated in Queensland and Michigan. His writing has been Highly Commended in the 2018 SLQ Young Writers Award. His work has appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review and elsewhere.