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,
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
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.
2. 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