Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Jireh Deng

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An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her

I have always been grasping for words
like when my mother phones customer service

dressed in her best American AccentTM.
I was a part of a music program, Giving Bach;

she pronounced it bark. Isn’t that what is asked of us?
Heel and sit, repeat as told. A pledge of allegiance I always closed

with “Jesus for all”. When I ask for salami at the grocer,
instead, tsunami pours out: a titular chirping in my chest,

ossified wings in my throat. I am safest without language
to wound (I mean /wound/) – wind myself around

a bastion of stories. I am gatekeeper and pariah. Mess-
iah and anti-Christ. I know wisdom is just a graveyard of teeth.

Alone is a city that will not carry your dead. Money as in time,
as in communists call us slaves to capitalism,

but we seem to forget human nature is a sower.
A sorrow seeder, in·​ter·​ne·​cine, being halfway bold

or stupid. 4 is also death, and the character 四
is also a window, a mouth, an esophagus. I don’t know

the difference between agápē and agape. An uncle once showed me
how he kept his youngest son’s eaten chicken bones in a study

drawer. So clean, he had gnawed off all the cartilage.
Does this mean I have been swallowed thrice before?

The ancient sapien instinct: love is an approximation to danger.
You make me feel safe, so I want to run away.

 

Made in China
after Connie Voisine

Your phone was Made in China
and so was the U.S. deficit. We send
back our waste, or so it goes. Soft
power is anything but the Chinese

Communist Party. It’s true
the Uyghur concentration camps
and Hong Kong is less echo
chamber than a sealed catacomb. Yes

Made in China is my cul-de-sac,
my neighbors, my mother’s dumplings.
The Bible is Chinese, the pages, the cover,
the congregation, the elders. Chinese as

Cantonese. Chinese as Taiwanese.
The onlyborns and ancestors forgot-
ten. What isn’t Made in China
here in our home? Missed New

Year’s hong bao, and feng li su.
Chinese, my potluck aunties, my
buyao mafan ni and wo qing ni chifan
uncles. Everyone eating dim sum I

proclaim fluent in Chinese. How
does a father express his dis-
appointment to his daughter?
In Chinese, apology in sliced fruit

served. Model minority, model
development China. Take
up space, kung-flu China.
Smile. Eyes wider, (see us)
china China.

 

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Photograph of Jireh Deng by Grace Widyatmadja.


Jireh (she/they) is a queer Asian American poet and journalist born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. Their work appears in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the podcast VS, LA Taco, the Human Rights Campaign, TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and more. They are a student at CSU Long Beach and the student advisory board representative for the Asian American Journalist Association’s Los Angeles Chapter. In summer 2021 they interned at the LA Times and are currently interning at NPR. When they aren’t writing, you can probably find them cooking noodles or fried rice for loved ones. More from this author →