“Regulation” by Tiffany Wu

Tiffany Wu


They banned bubblegum to keep our streets clean,
to save our sidewalks from the sticky sweetness
brewed in our restlessness, so our flesh-
colored residue is not on display, so the pores
of our roads remain unclogged, the soles of businessmen’s
oxfords unsullied, the subway riders undisturbed by the smacking
of our lips, and so the ants teeter
along the curb single-file and scavenge
for some other sugar, and so no glazed goo clings to the bellies
of our desks, no coral contraband stains our pinafore pockets,
and so when our headmasters peer into our mouths
and under our tongues they find nothing, when we flash
our pearly whites at our dentists their hands linger
on our shoulders, and so we only chew
at the insides of our cheeks, only blush
the color of cane marks around our wrists, don’t stick anything in our sisters’
curls while they sleep, end every sentence with sir just to learn
what permanence tastes like, get down on our knees
each time he asks just to suck the flavor out of something, and so
we choke on nothing so we swallow everything
given to us, and so we step on the ants just to leave something small and dead
behind us, and then we continue onwards, a single file of clenched jaws,
slick ponytails, and foreheads stretched taut.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Tiffany Wu: “Poetry is a space where I delve into my obsessions with the feminine, the bodily, and the unsaid. In this poem, I try to contend with the intersections of my identity and my cultural upbringing.” (web)

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