Standing in front of a mirror, my mother tells me she is ugly
says the medication is making her fat. I laugh & walk her
back to the bed. My mother tells me she is ugly in the same voice
she used to say no woman could love you & I watch her
pull at her body & it is mine. My heavy breast.
My disappointing shape. She asks for a bowl of plain broth
& it becomes the cup of vinegar she would pour down my throat.
Everyday after school, I would kneel before her.
I would remove my clothes & ask her to mark the progress.
It’s important that I mention, I truly wanted to be beautiful
for her. In my dreams I am thin & if not thin, something better.
I tell my mother she is still beautiful & she laughs. The room fills
with flies. They gather in the shape of a small boy. They lead her
back to the mirror, but my reflection is still there.
I met my brother once in a small village in Vietnam who, upon meeting me grabbed my small arm & dragged me into the woods behind his house where a group of men all wearing our father's face stood in a circle, cheering while the two roosters whose beaks had barbed hooks taped to them, pecked & clawed each other open until the mess of bloodied feathers were replaced by two clean birds one, my brother's. The other a man's, who, I am told is deaf but vicious. He told me our father calls him long distance from America, every week. I can't help but wonder how they tell the roosters apart since the blood has turned their feathers the same shade of burgundy. I told him how our father, who lives only three mile away from me avoids making eye-contact at supermarkets. I can tell this made him happy. Though, he didn't cheer when the crowd cheered, when one rooster fell to the dirt with a gash in its neck I knew he was the winner the way he lowered his head to hide his smile, how he looked at me then snatched his earnings from the vicious man's hands. I learned what it was like to be a brother by watching the roosters & how, at first, the air was calm until they were introduced & then they knew: there could only be one.