Emily Lee Luan
I Put Tasks I Do for Free into a Folder Titled "Jobs"

There are not enough hours in the day before I have to perform affection.


That's an objectively robotic thing to say, my therapist tells me, when I speak about my responses to sentimentality.


My weekly battle with the laser printer-a kind of intimacy, my pleading.


I don't want your flashing red light, I say, telling me you won't go.


I wear shoes I found on a sidewalk. That must mean something, my feet bathed in the ghost of someone else's feet.


When Cynthia, the taller and much-older cousin, looked under the deck and saw that the baby birds in the nest had their heads bitten off, I screamed until someone inevitably told me to stop.


I've always been this sensitive, hands clapped over my ears.


A pure emotion, like thread trickling from a spider, is rare and terrifying in its precision.


After the particularly stressful movie, I provoked a fight.


Or, should I say, the fight lived in me, and then it was rattled out of me by the screen performance of other griefs.


All emotion feels to me a kind of performance. I'm trying to unlearn that now.


At the cafe, my laptop screen kisses the screen of the laptop across from mine. Mwah. Though the other screen already has its partner.


The acupuncturist smoothing tiger balm on my shoulders every week. That could be enough to live for.


Who will love me when my WiFi code runs out?


I break my grandmother's $100 bill on squash and eggs. She touched that bill; I saved it as a greedy child; that money goes quickly from me now, as she went from me, as she's now gone.


I thought: that money is little to me now, and the thought rattled out a nest of bitten-off sadness.


I was in Chinatown when the building with the archives burned, but I didn't see the smoke. That's where those beautiful archives are, I'd said to my companion, and pointed freely.


Found In Volume 51, No. 02
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  • Emily Lee Luan
Emily Lee Luan
About the Author

Emily Lee Luan is the author of I Watch the Boughs (2021), selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. The recipient of a 2022 Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in Best American Poetry (2021), Best New Poets (2019), The Offing, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Rutgers University–Newark.