Kevin Phan

by Kevin Phan

Fridays, too, I’d lie on a beach towel
within an umbrella’s flood-shadow

at the Marion Municipal Pool.
My mother chain-smoked in gray

hometown air, her uncoupling mind a field
of long division. I never swelled

with joy, never in the merry-go-round
of her arms. She commanded

the toddlers in the kiddie pool
to rest. I ate ice pops & pop rocks

with quarter Cokes & filled
the margins of green notebooks

with scrawls to identify
my inner constellations:

a maestro orchestrated fleas,
a wildflower time machine.

A jock pinned a kiss on a bikini
in the cerulean blue deep-end.

In the roped off swim lane
a geezer struggled to detach

a pair of flippers. From the opposite side
of the chain link fence Lenny Baker

jabbed a chick-o-stick into my shoulder.
I got dizzy under my mother’s sunburnt

face. Chlorinated waves popped
at my eardrums. What I know now is what

a child couldn’t understand,
how a mind’s lifetime recession happens

chemical-by-chemical, first in the face,
then all the way back. Translating sticks,

leaves, & mown grass into a wreath,
mother crowned me king, said

no honey, beautiful exhibitionist. You are
not falling. The world turns upside down.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.

Kevin PhanKevin Phan holds an MFA  from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Iowa, and was a Fellow for the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets in 2001. Currently, he earns wages as a Helen Zell Writer’s Fellow Postgraduate Fellow from the University of Michigan, where he won the Theodore Roethke and the Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prizes.

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