The Terms

Those two pieces of milk chocolate
in their golden wrappers
were the only terms we could agree upon
in the end, succinct as kanji,
open to multiple readings,
lacking the bitter overtones
of words from a stranger’s tongue.

Terms from our distant homelands—Haiti,
the United States—didn’t translate to Japanese.
There we were equally stereotypical
hen na gaijin, queer foreigners—
like children with our clumsy chatter,
our thin skins, our crude expressions.

But how well we learned to ape
the eloquent gestures
of the Japanese: our agile fingers
fastidiously slid the wrappers down,
peeled back the foil. In silence
we bowed from the waist
& bit in.


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