I Put Tasks I Do for Free into a Folder Titled “Jobs”

Emily Lee Luan

There are not enough hours in the day before I have to perform affection.

That's an objectively robotic thing to say, my therapist tells me, when I speak about my responses to sentimentality.

My weekly battle with the laser printer—a kind of intimacy, my pleading.

I don't want your flashing red light, I say, telling me you won't go.

I wear shoes I found on a sidewalk. That must mean something, my feet bathed in the ghost of someone else's feet.

When Cynthia, the taller and much-older cousin, looked under the deck and saw that the baby birds in the nest had their heads bitten off, I screamed until someone inevitably told me to stop.

I've always been this sensitive, hands clapped over my ears.

A pure emotion, like thread trickling from a spider, is rare and terrifying in its precision.

After the particularly stressful movie, I provoked a fight.

Or, should I say, the fight lived in me, and then it was rattled out of me by the screen performance of other griefs.

All emotion feels to me a kind of performance. I'm trying to unlearn that now.

At the cafe, my laptop screen kisses the screen of the laptop across from mine. Mwah. Though the other screen already has its partner.

The acupuncturist smoothing tiger balm on my shoulders every week. That could be enough to live for.

Who will love me when my WiFi code runs out?

I break my grandmother's $100 bill on squash and eggs. She touched that bill; I saved it as a greedy child; that money goes quickly from me now, as she went from me, as she's now gone.

I thought: that money is little to me now, and the thought rattled out a nest of bitten-off sadness.

I was in Chinatown when the building with the archives burned, but I didn't see the smoke. That's where those beautiful archives are, I'd said to my companion, and pointed freely.

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Headshot of Emily Lee Luan

Emily Lee Luan’s first book, 回 / Return, won a 2021 Nightboat Poetry Prize and will be published in 2023. She is also the author of I Watch the Boughs (2021), selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. A former Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2021, Best New Poets 2019, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Rutgers University–Newark.

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Vol. 51 / No. 2

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Scanlon

The American Poetry Review is dedicated to reaching a worldwide audience with a diverse array of the best contemporary poetry and literary prose. APR also aims to expand the audience interested in poetry and literature, and to provide authors, especially poets, with a far-reaching forum in which to present their work.

APR has continued uninterrupted publication of The American Poetry Review since 1972, and has included the work of over 1,500 writers, among whom there are nine Nobel Prize laureates and thirty-three Pulitzer Prize winners.

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