poem: when we watch mulan

When We Watch Mulan
for Cayden

how we are and are not our fathers
these Chinese men we do and do not know
we will talk about

the stories we may never know
cherish the ones we know how to tell
about how we so often talk about our feelings,

our manhood, how we dress as who we see
— looking in the mirror, we
know these reflections as our true selves

forged and shaped, like her father’s sword
nurtured and watered, like the flowered comb
she leaves behind

we strive to fill these footsteps
trace ourselves in the curves of their jaws
the shape of our hair

out of what do we make
our manhood, dark-moon mystery
they left behind

we will talk about
all of the times we cried
looking in the mirror

all of the times we might cry,
looking in the mirror —
that man, staring back at me

—————————————————-

I typed this piece on a friend’s typewriter that has been doing a home stay with me. It’s been interesting to explore form in different ways by typing poetry: I notice myself paying more attention to visual layout, and there is also a different tempo, pace, soundtrack, and physical interaction with writing — it takes a lot more finger and wrist muscle than writing by hand or typing on a laptop, and it creates a significant amount of very vigorous typing noise. I also find applying this permanence to first drafts really satisfying.

This poem was one of those that happened very quickly and also feels like maybe it has been years in the drafting. Cayden and I had planned at the beginning of 2020 to watch the live action Mulan together in April and cry a lot and feel all of our trans feelings — I still hope we’ll be able to do that together in the nearish future.

I feel a piece brewing called “Being Trans at the Funeral,” but I haven’t been able to start putting it into words yet. Right now it’s a lot of feelings, including being grateful to be so held in trans community, but also wishing that we all had a little less practice navigating grief.

This poem is also featured in the fourth edition of the Loves Me | Loves Me Not zine, curated by jenevieve ting + nikita lamba.

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