Franny Choi
Unlove Poem



If I call myself unloveable, I am, practically; if I say it

enough times: unloveable. Then, like practical magic,


I’m hollow as old garlic; I’m distance-skinned.

I’m a long, mean package, a terror-dyke, a nag, a squinting,


slut-spun hag—it’s easy, really. It’s the simplest thing,

I do it in my sleep. I have invasive dreams,


after all, they infect my lover’s skull, they crank our jaws

into four slow hammers. After all, I’m made of distance


plus the beautiful things people have tried to put

inside me, they fall out the bottom. No one can kill me


with kindness. No one can reach me through the sound

of such ancestral ugly, sound of my grandmothers gagging


a half-century ago (did they?). My grandmother beating

her stomach with her fists, drinking medicine, then poison (did she?).


I’m distance-skinned. No one can put a story inside me

but me. If not even my memories love me enough to stay,


then fine, cut off the hands that keep me married

to any history. See? Like magic, then,


I call myself a rotted-out bulb, and soon enough

I’m hauling out the wet stuff, cracking my compost heart


under a shovel’s faceless verdict. Sometimes a highway opens

between my hearts, and I run suicides between until I’m lactic.


Sometimes I wonder how long I’d have to run

to reach the last generation where one of us felt loved,


and I crumple into carcass. I come from a short line of women

who were handed husbands as salvation from rape.


I’m a short lie of a woman whom men have wanted

to tear apart with their good strong hands. I mean, same.


If I love anyone enough to know they deserve better than me,

and stay anyway…? If I love myself enough to beat


fistfuls of poison into me, into me who hurts me, oh well,

I’m just imitating the rockets’ red glare. I’m just covering


the old song. Unloveable is open-source, anyone can make up

new verses to sing it. Here’s the part where I list the times


my white ex hurt my feelings, or my white teacher,

my white therapist, the white boy who put his dick inside me,


the boy I liked too much, the woman who let me fall

in love with her too fast, of course there’s the boy


who died by accident and left me only able to write beautiful poems

about his leaving, pretty only-love things I threw and threw into


the endless distances inside me, highways of quiet.

O, I’ve been hard to love in America. I’ve been slow


to speak in America. I’ve been, undoubtedly, an American

and done practically nothing to stop it. I’ve been


some version of my grandmothers slinking around the floor

of the GI bar, shivering in the bathroom of the GI bar.


I’ve been some version of my grandmother making child

after child for a loveless man. I’ve been her, and I’ve been


the version of her that lives, that lives in an opportune land,

that chooses who she loves, that sits by a window writing,


drinking water with tulsi, breaking chocolate with her clean hands,

that goes to school after school and collects heart and heart


and heart sweetly brimming in her well-oiled forearms and still

has the gall to be unloveable. O, my badly-loved grandmothers,


I kin you to me, facelessly. I wrap all our deaths around

my shoulders like a foxpelt coat: grandmother across


oceans and ages, grandmother across the border, grandmother

carried off by soldiers, grandmother carried into endless highway


by disease or dog or dawn’s unrelenting purge. I wrap until

I’m made of grandmother, until the ritual musk of their dreams


is sprouting from my skull: sandalwood, ambergris, copper

of blood, coin copper, clay of approaching dusk. I am loved


by pheromone if nothing else. By accident at best.

O beasts of fortune, I am loved sweetest by the horrors of blood,


by my own, and by ours, O blessed rootrot, by ours.






Found In Volume 51, No. 03
Read Issue
  • Franny Choi
Franny Choi
About the Author

Franny Choi is the author of Soft Science (Alice James Books) and Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing), as well as a chapbook, Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press). She is a Kundiman Fellow, a 2019 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a recipient of Princeton’s Holmes National Poetry Prize, and a graduate of the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers Program. She is the founder of Brew & Forge and teaches at Williams College as the Levitt Artist-in-Residence. Her third poetry collection, The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, is forthcoming from Ecco.