After Another Conversation with My Parents In Which I Refer to Him as My Roommate

by Chen Chen

Chen Chen

Who in this story, parent or child, is the coward?
The parents who can’t listen without anger?
Or the child who can’t speak without hurt?
Whose myth is this that demands again & again
civility over reality, cheerfulness over change?
Oh but I know: the myth is mine, theirs, ours.

Each month that passes by like this is ours.
Every time I choose to call them up: coward!
I call myself for not bringing up what would change
everything. Every time they call me: anger
that they did not ask, did not ask again
what I would not answer, not wanting to hurt

them, though they are the ones who have hurt
me most, who have looked away & said, Not ours.
Who have said, You are ours, but don’t ever again
talk about that. Who made me feel a coward
for not asking nice girl out, a traitor for my anger,
my “refusal” to be with girls, to change

for anyone, for the world they think won’t change
for me, though it is, it is. It doesn’t have to hurt
simply to be here. We don’t have to have this anger
anymore. What’s mine, what’s theirs, & ours
should be the same: a world without shouting coward,
traitor, then silence, silence. But my body again

refuses to cooperate. My hand, my mouth again
stay still, shut. Won’t pick up the phone, can’t change
the static channel of the face, the show called Coward
Forever. & all the while, the boy I love is hurt.
He’s already welcomed me into his family, said ours,
not just yours or mine any longer. Which sparks an anger

with myself, my stubborn hesitation. But maybe this anger
is good anger, a kind that leads back to kindness again.
Maybe this anger is courage. & I need it for the hours,
months it might take after I finally make the change
& my parents say, Go to hell or Give us time or You’ve hurt
us. & then hanging up, retreating as cowards,

afraid of me, my anger, no, afraid of themselves, changing.
Damn it, it’s time to speak again. Not to hurt
but to say, our life can’t go on as that of a coward’s.

Last updated May 16, 2023