Runner Up: 2022 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest
because it’s offensive.” My blue-eyed friend
sneers, smiles at superiority in knowledge,
fairness, and freckles. My mother says
her hair is mousy.
My mother is not a rug. She has used
this word for forty years, feels its reclaimed
East-Asian kinship. This word is hers; it is
mine. She taught me to
I. “find/establish/feel one’s bearings/location/way, get the lie of the land”
as other, as not-them, unbelong
at the lunchbox cracked open.
Fourth-grade culture-day potluck
leaves yakitori untouched. I throw
it out of blue tupperware into the bushes;
local wildlife doesn’t discriminate, and relay
its evaporation with delight “they loved it.”
II. “adapt, accommodate, acclimatize, attune”
I learn to accommodate questions until
I’m thirty. I acclimatize to exotic. Attune
to scrutiny. I do mind you asking; I do
not exist to satiate curiosity. This unease
others you; I sniff it in like sweet gasoline.
I will respond with fire. Like her, I am crowned
with midnight river hair so long it tucks into our jeans.
We belong everywhere.
III. “aim, steer, design, intend”
towards mysterious as a hand I hold
to chest. Or a ship adrift, I outmaneuver
and drop into the conversation my Auntie,
the camps, Godzilla, what’s of my people.
Use chopsticks for popcorn, cheese crackers,
anything oily. Scoff at weight-control advice:
“they’ll help you eat slower!” unless you’ve
always used them. She still keeps
my pink plastic baby ones with birds,
little finger loops for a toddler.
IV. “align, place, position, set”
My mother as direction, I fix my sight
where the sun rises, eastward. She
warms me face-first.
Alison Lubar (they/she) teaches high school English by day and yoga by night. They are a queer, nonbinary femme of color whose life work (aside from wordsmithing) has evolved into bringing mindfulness practices, and sometimes even poetry, to young people. Most recently, their work has been published by or is forthcoming with Moonstone Press, New York Quarterly, and Sinister Wisdom; you can find most published work at http://alisonlubar.com/ and heavily-edited selfies at @theoriginalison on IG.