Sunday Rumpus Poetry: Five Poems by Jan-Henry Gray





I-797C Notice of Action



APPLICATION NUMBER MSC XXXXXXX058                                                  A# A XXX XXX 961

Notice Date: July 24, 2014                                                                     Priority Date: July 24, 2014

Date of Arrival: February 20, 1984




hereby notified to appear
_how often do you have sex
to adjust status
_what color is his toothbrush
his birth certificate
_what side of the bed does he sleep on
resident alien
_how much does he make
your husband must come with you
_what’s his mother’s name
we may videotape you
_where did you buy your rings
bring an interpreter
_what are his siblings’ spouses’ names
in a sealed envelope bring
_what’s his father’s name
failure to appear
_what’s his father’s name
please appear, as scheduled below

_do you love him
supporting evidence
_why do you love him
Tuesday, March 17, 2015  8:00am USCIS, Chicago, IL

don’t mention citizenship
talk about love, how you got married for love



momma takes aim. leans into the machine. types
my first social security card. her third try.
early, I learn how to lie on forms.


Terminal Couplet

for airports




Twelve straight months of metal rain.
Paused, they wait in peopled stages:
A womb, a room, a train to plane
And pass the time—aging is ageless.
Virgins sip sodas with husbands while wives
Slip something it’s nothing in whisky and water.
He melts into “The Story of Our Lives”
And Mira sends her last text to her father.
Dry-mouthed, standing shoulder to shoulder,
They watch the carousel spit out black bags
And mumble not mine over and over.
Ju-yung, six, red backpack, changes his name to John on his tag.
And the plane, still, idle on the tarmac, has lost her wings.
The blind pilot, one day, will sing a song about these things.


On Translation

A tree’s branch

A falling branch is
a branch, not a twig

until it has fallen
and is with-the-ground.

There, the twig
is among other twigs.

Also there, it is near
the root of its tree.


Birth Certificate

The pot boils. I reach deep

into the oven and scar the scarred part

of my arm. I place words

and words together,
_____un-together, take apart,

to make an art from documents
that twin a life to mine.

It was 1984, 1978, 1997, I was 21, 18, I was born, I was six.

It’s been 32, 37, 38, 39 years of verses and few refrains.

Jan-Henry Gray was born in the Philippines, grew up in California, and was a chef in San Francisco for 12 years. He received his MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago where he was an editor of the Columbia Poetry Review. A recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award, Jan's work is published in Tupelo Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Puerto del Sol, Southern Humanities Review, Small Po[r]tions,, and Assaracus. He is working on his first book. More from this author →