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How to Take Care (of the Environment)



The first night you eat Peking duck. It is not your first time to consider ducks as food or something less than the geese who always know where to go during winter: your mother used to cook it for your birthday. To this day, you don’t know her ethnicity, and They don’t offer any words, only say you are some version of Asian. The marinated head sinks halfway through the pool of sauce, the beak broken off and discarded. They try coaxing you into staring at something more than the duck’s eyes, burnt and cratered. You will never eat ducks again; They will think ducks have magic that bewitches you, and you will never correct them.



The houses start looking the same; all the faces are gilded masks you know better than to peek into. Those eyes insulate and sneak bits and pieces of you before you realize someone’s touched your robe. The power’s gone, you would say, but no one’s listening. She’s doing better every day, They say. Your mother threw her shirt at you before They arrived; you sleep in it every night, finger the quaint butt holes lingering in her cigaretted memoir. It’s the only book you like to read, and later, when the soccer girl calls you a name a white man once called your mother, your fingers flex her face, redraws it in some uglier line.



During the drive home, They—or the radio, you can’t tell—ask why, why you stood there gazing at the bleeding girl, unmoving. The last chords sizzle as They turn the car. We’re trying, They say. You watch a Walmart plastic bag flee something across the road and blink when it stops, a skinny evergreen branch thrust through its pellucid skin. They crush the knob under key-stained fingers, direct those curses at anything but you, stuffing the red-face, heaving delirium inside for the social worker. Tension snaps across the windshield, and the Walmart bag is floating somewhere between the space of the branches. Tell Them they’re not the first. Tell Them you don’t want to be proselyted into a Chanel bag. Tell Them Walmart is good enough. But say only your marooned, cliché wasted-breath wish:

            Let’s go home.

Yvanna Vien Tica is a Filipina writer with a hearing impairment who grew up in Manila and a suburb near Chicago. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Verse Daily, Hobart, Strange Horizons, and Poet Lore, among others. She edits for Polyphony Lit, reads for Muzzle Magazine, tweets @yvannavien, and can be found thanking God for another day.

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