It’s Too Hot to Be This Close to My Family

"Ode to the New York Heat Wave" and "Bowl of Fat," two poems by Su Cho

fire escape in summer

It’s Too Hot to Be This Close to My Family

Ode to the New York Heat Wave

My family discovered each other in a house
during a heat wave. The five of us,
 
on the bare floor, trying not to touch
each other, breathe too loud, and

inching closer to the window. My sister
is the youngest and won’t stop crying.

She asks if we’re poor now, if she has to go
get a job. We laugh, congratulate her

for being able to see the bigger picture.
At night, my dad orders buffalo chicken pies,

vodka pies, a classic pepperoni, and as many
cold 2 liters of Coke we want, keeping our mouths

full and quiet. We speak again as we determine
the bathroom order like strangers

having met for the first time seeing
each other differently every morning.


Bowl of Fat

She rattles the oxtails in the milky
yellow soup with a wooden spoon.
 
The humid garage fills with a smothering
of garlic, pepper, and gasoline.
 
The portable gas burner wobbles every time
she stirs. With steady hands,
 
she skims off the yellow fat from
the surface and dumps it into a bone
 
white rice bowl. She calls for me
once she is finished. Before I carry
 
this brimming offering inside, ask
why she bothers to skim the fat when it takes so long.
 
She says it’s healthier this way and asks
if I want this yellow gunk inside my body.
 
Before I can answer, she snaps
for me to close the door quickly to not
 
waste the cold air inside, for me to go
straight to the bathroom and wash my feet
 
because the floors are clean—
she is barefoot.

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