wuthering heights retold with catherine and heathcliff as lava lamps

LYDIA WEI

Whitechapel

why did you betray your own

heart, cathy?

for weeks and weeks afterwards

i coughed limp cells, fluorescent fish

eyes, pulped onion bulbs

of brake cleaner.

you were my light once: now,

i knock the backs of my eyes

to cross you in the darkness again, hoping

to find the impossible halogens bordering love

and death. i listen to the rumbling

tungsten

thunder i know to be your cry, watch

the tetrachloride

algae blooms i know to be

your eyes

 

 

Learning to be your daughter is like walking

down Brick Lane, every employee barking at you

London’s most famous curry ‘til you don’t know who

to trust anymore, who you could hang your head before

and cry to. I meet you at a brunch spot that’s overly

self-conscious. When our eggs arrive in silly little egg-cups,

I wonder if you think they look like toys, stupid

dolls you could still mold to your demands. If this

were a dream I’d lean back amicably, comfortable

like Buxton Street poplars bent in the wind. I’d laugh

at all the right beats and tell you bad stories about my

flatmates, my rejected manuscripts. If this were a dream

I’d get up and leave right now. At Whitechapel

Gallery I try to explain the paintings to you, all these

sharp remarks I’d practiced weeks beforehand with flash

cards, but you think contemporary art is too confrontational

so you’d rather wait for me in the lobby. Now I’m stuck

pretending to be somebody I’m not to nobody. The walls

are white like crushed eggshells or skin stretched over

knuckles. I stare at a Sanya Kantarovsky painting.

I like the aqueous cytoplasms of color, the way the greens and

beiges belch and bubble on canvas, snot-smeared

and sniffling, as if waiting for me to look away. It looks

like a contemporary painting of a cell division. It looks

like a contemporary painting of an embrace. Suddenly

I’m scared of all the things I could never tell you, suddenly I’m

running out of Whitechapel Gallery and lurching onto

Brick Lane and when I hear the first employee say to me

London’s most famous curry I hang my head before him and

cry, his baffled expression growing as I blubber on until

finally he takes my hand and slips a voucher for two free pints and 25%

off inside, ushering me into the restaurant’s warm recesses

with more gentleness than you ever had.

Lydia Wei's poems appear or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, wildness, The Margins: Asian American Writers' Workshop, harana poetry, and elsewhere. Her work has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, and the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.