As part of the January I Issue Poetry Roundup, we are featuring pieces by artist and writer Anna Archibald. You can find her on Instagram @annaarchibald
my household always took comfort in excess, enough to spare, 2-packs of anything a drawer full of condiment packets, freezer-full of leftovers so the way I love can be sparing, like the way I buy a box of ziplock bags and reuse the first four forever in my adult life, I train myself to be comfortable with less like cooking for one, a carry on suitcase furniture made to be rearranged and disassembled but this is what I know as making a home: sweeping away leaves that will never stop returning separating laundry colors for someone you love, holding on to empty take-out containers and more things that won’t run out, my best friend packs me a snack for the drive my mother texts me a photo of her lunch my roommate turns off the lights behind me my coworker gives me a crystal for good luck
at my auntie’s house, a VHS labeled “internment” that she can’t recall surfaces made of polished wood and step-stools, shrines and ashes and a graveyard of takeout utensils postmaster of her own living room, packages piled with nowhere to go on my fathers dresser, lined up are nail clippers three in a row evidence of my first vandalism, Sanrio sticker on his radio clock in this house we say less with one single flavor of salad dressing and a special communication for feeding the fish at home are carbon copies of my lease renewal shoved above the refrigerator but elsewhere a car I could park with my eyes closed, the crunch of air-dried bath towels, and loading the dishwasher with things that are clean I think maybe once we’re best friends i’ll stop writing about my mother, her bowls of softened winter melon post-it note vision board that breaks my heart
google calendar alert: “dad zoom wedding”
is it rude to eat at a virtual reception? I consider this briefly, then snap the brick of noodle in half, measure out half a packet of soup base cutting the powder with the back of a knife I empty the bottom of a bottle over ice and we are sipping this when my new stepmother says to me in the chat box: are you having a drink? I am jealous she keeps her wine off screen I scroll through instagram holding my phone up to maintain eye level, and think of my parents wedding photos where my mom is standing on a box to even out their height, and then we look at these ones, my dad’s now bald head reflecting off the beach facetiming later with my mothers chin, she says I just think it’s funny he didn’t tell me and I shrug, turning my mic on to nervous laugh along with blurry boxes holding half familiar faces lifting their glasses in connectivity slow-mo
all of new york city with an expiring lease, for those who are lucky enough to choose to leave or stay the collective bread baking has worn out, these same pots and pans are now banging out of windows, with the bang of fireworks that grow more insidious and less celebratory each night, I savor the rainbow showers, remembering my childhood driveway, dancing barefoot in the streets with the neighbor kids but cringing at the loudness covering my ears, ducking my head, who let these children play with fire tonight cardboard signs hanging from expressways, posted into storefronts, pushed up high as a woman silently films from her car sweat trickles onto the cardboard tucked under my arm and the edges wilt and everyone’s apartment with a room now for rent, who am I to blame them when I get that selfish freedom feeling, of google maps announcing each time you’ve crossed state lines in the rental car, and when I slide myself across river rocks through murky runoff, different from bodies of water I know, but the refreshments at these parties are always the same how hard it is to ask people to breathe recycled air wishing I could make a big soup and feed it to everyone I know, crying to your friends over this money in our pockets that should have been there all along, emptying them for others every day my cotton mask stretches between washes, how permeable are we now
dear mom, you were the first writer i ever knew i’m bad at writing to you but i write about you all the time i have a cold this week, my lungs are rattling and everything feels muffled like laughter behind an orange peel over your teeth my best friend runs her fingers through my hair when i miss you folding skin on my stomach and wondering what you’ll say All Four Of Us together at dinner acting like we eat this way all the time when i’m not sleeping on your couch i can write about a cleaner type of love, like 2 parent family portraits, 2.25 school lunches washing a pot of rice until it’s rinsed clear- a habit i abandoned living on my own
clothespins make me think of you and so it’s a shame i can’t hang my own laundry, learned to move delicately washing cling wrap for a second use
I love 2-for-1 deals on potato chips and time commitments it’s not perfect but i pay my rent on time, you can borrow my money, i’m not sure whose pride hurts more
i’m sorry i killed your car battery, headlights left on so busy crying like a slap on the grill you leave me so medium rare
dollar menu fast food chain, chain migration, chain reaction, lost some skin to a chain link fence, i’ll leave your chain around my neck, tell people it’s yours because it takes away the tarnish, gold clasp, clench me between your teeth, pinch me till i’m awake
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Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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