Your signature scent is the apple pie
Yankee Candle on the toilet in your grandmother’s
powder room in La Jolla, which I light
just after I finally shit for the first time in a week
full of casseroles, cobbs and clubs, plus
the hours of sitting in your grandfather’s Lincoln
driving through desert hills decked out in
ranch-style manses, old money, oil and gold,
a wheeling and dealing history as he tells it,
feeling something acidic push up in my throat
as we cruise and swerve through what should be just desert.
Then he asks where I come from—no where
do I really come from, what’s my, ah, ethnicity—oh,
would I know, they had a Korean gardener
for thirteen years. He never said much, how funny
that someone could live here that long
without learning the language. His name was Kim
like kimchi, he says, which I’ve tried, which is too spicy for me.
One night Kim went walking, was hit by a car,
lost the use of his legs. He was sent
to live with a son in Boston, then
they put in the pool where the garden
used to be. You’re in the front seat, not speaking.
I’m looking at nothing, needing dramamine.
Then you turn to me while he goes on, your eyes look alarmed,
I’m sorry, on behalf of this half of my family.
When we get back to the house he insists
on opening my car door, on principle. He
moves slowly, arthritic antiquity. I’m sorry,
you say without speaking, but
this is where I come from, really.
In their house your name is the family’s,
your mother’s maiden, reclaimed and emblazoned
upon you, the first son—kept aflame, if weakly.
Uphold us, Carson, your primogeniture
bears the torch of your forebears, burns
white like our purity. You must maintain
the semblance of this, manicure
of ancestry, from whom you descended,
for whom you are pressed to pretend
to tend to the line, the idea of the line,
to remember, preserve it, to serve us.
At night you come down the hall in the dark
to the separate room I’ve been lent. I wait up
in your mother’s childhood bed. When you knock
I’m overready, a mess of frustrations
repressed, almost vengeful. I undress you
rough of a long day of dress-up. What can we do
in the dark to undo a bit of the unbearable
drag of this visit? You have to touch me
with your bravest tenderness, your best
disobedience. Like this we secretly fuck
up the legacy. Thus you swear your allegiance
to me, to my body, unconstrained for a second
by my ethnic whatever, be unashamed of your name,
miscegenate our Americannesses. I clutch my fingers
in your fine blond hair. I know where
you come from and who you might be,
still I will receive your petition tonight.
This American life is so rich, so weird,
so finely worded, pedigreed and perverted.