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A quarterly international literary journal

Chilling at the Mandopop Karaoke Bar

/ Poetry /

and when she sings the moon represents my heart

maybe what she means is the distance, as in maybe

i don’t look as cool as i think i do, sat way back,

corner booth, arms spread so wide against plush

i appear more closed off than open. like i’m the night’s

brooding noir protagonist nursing a tsingtao, inspecting the crime

of toothpicks stabbed into fish balls and curried squid,

waxing poetic internal monologue when really

i’m just surveying the scene because i can’t read the lyrics on the screen,

though at least they’re playing the one song i know

how to sing along to or, more accurately, pretend to,

silently sculpting my second-generation mouth into the shape

of everyone else’s memories, which seem,

though unknown to me, somehow more real than my own,

and so more real their mouths, ears, their singing and hearing,

though i know the words too, but then how real is my knowing?

because when she sings the moon represents my heart

i am reminded that, many years ago, something

stamped their first steps onto its surface—whiteness,

maybe, the desire for adjacency, likely, or, probably,

the loneliness i clasped like a tsingtao—

displacing all the powdery dust, moon dust,

fairy dust, possibly, the imperceptible raw

materials of magic, of floating and melodious song,

and sometimes now i imagine that’s why i can’t feel it,

when she sings the moon represents my heart,

the lilt, the hum, the whisper, though literally speaking i can,

the way the speakers bid the hairs of my arms to rise,

the way my eardrums thump, tender as two fledgling hearts

—sensation, i realize, that pervades in even lyric

functionally indecipherable to me meaning that,

failing to feel some greater it, i nevertheless feel

something, “thing” meaning that which cannot be

precisely designated, but may be

pointed towards meaning, perhaps, the moon’s truest nature,

my heart’s mystery, the moon that represents my heart,

and, of course, the she who sings, the woman behind the mic

at the karaoke bar singing teresa; teresa herself;

my mother, who once sang teresa in a small apartment;

and the waning image of a woman, singing teresa in the small apartment

of my hippocampus, who represents my memory, mother,

the moon, my heart, that unknowing something.


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