House of Cards

by Evy Shen


in summer’s fist of an apartment
                                              we played poker.
valleyed in the sofa’s corduroy,
flinging            hands        across the crested
                               kitchen table, contiguous.
in our ancestry, all we want is air
                                to inherit this madness—
cabinets jut against panes,
                       chiseled mouths bathe dignity
in greasy light,                   rosewood skinned
and suited with reverence for country.
           we throne upon the furniture like pigs
readied for slaughter, choking meager chips,
               swallowing       holes.

from the marketplace, you unpack Styrofoam 
meals, soup dumplings, nickel shrimps 
                                        with yolk bellies. i ask 
                             how can you eat such fragile things 
and you respond by slipping off their heads 
the way a daughter would the ring
                                                  of her suitor. the crowns 
have the best taste, you say, 
as you suck the filmy bank clean.          greedy empire
                of shells
a glimpse of clay, and they flooded right into the cage
                                          you let victory linger
                  in your mouth until you forget its taste,
                           remember its shape.


in basalt streets, you cast your hat 
and basket after the turn.         i didn’t see    
                                        when you reached the dead
-end, just saw you fire straight 
                          after straight       up the palace walls,
      biting     through soft armour 
                        to reach salt and flesh.
             and what you received in return,         a river.
you:     flushed.     folded.

what the fishermen didn’t tell you:
     1.   shrimp can weasel through codend holes
           5 cm wide, which is the legal minimum net size.
as bottom feeders, they thrive on decaying laborers. 
     3.   they have no problem doing either.


from afar, faces align in sequence, the flag 
bloviating in the square. here, there are no rules 

but to watch or play. the gilded bluff, 
card houses of sin. we have so much 

to lose and all we have is our hands.

Photo credit: Marin Tulard