ONE GOOD MEMORY
It’s Sunday afternoon with too many people wearing white
for a barbeque. The sweet smoke floats up into the trees from the galbi
on the grill, the picnic tables lined with kimchi, lettuce wraps, polite
Tupperware fighting for space. The girls are called away
to pick flowers for the tables as the boys
ready to muddy their knees around the baseball diamond.
I’m wearing a Space Jam T-shirt two sizes too big,
cargo shorts and a bowl haircut. I don’t hate flowers
but I do hate watching my father walk away towards the field and so
I run up to him, tears suddenly mixing with summer sweat,
beg him to let me play with the sons catching praise
like pop flies. I’m surprised he says yes, dares
the other fathers to say something
to his beer-easy sneer.
How is this the memory that comes up when I think of him in summer,
not the cigarette held too close to my shoulder, not the way his face stills
before it sprays spit. He leads me to the plate, cheers too loud
as I run to first base, never says a word as he watches
me part my hair like him, or jump on home base like the other boys,
daring someone to say I should be anywhere but here.
—from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Noah Arhm Choi: “The ways we are socialized to define the world in a binary of good/bad or right/wrong leaves little room for the nuanced knot of emotions that is most often, for me, the true center of an influential experience. Sometimes we are validated by people who have otherwise harmed us and vice versa. This poem is an attempt to nurture what is positive and affirming without shying away from violence.” (web)