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My Mother Asks How I Was Gay Before Sleeping with a Man

She says I've taught you this before: press the skin
of pears to your nose to sense if they're ripe,
sound out foreign words, spring-load them on your lips

before flicking them off your tongue. Measure drinks
with your fingers, test gold with your teeth. Do you trust
the strength of ice with the weight of one toe,

the day's weather without throwing yourself into it,
the spice of a pepper by biting the tip? Son,
the world is not known by its surfaces alone.

When you cut new flowers, split their stems
like a giant vein, teach them to drink water again.
I warned you once not to touch fire red coils,

but you had to reach out your hand, palm the heat,
hold the fire in your fist to learn how to be afraid.

- Eric Tran (from Voicemail Poems)