Hurt & Healing, 2nd Place Winner: Ode to My Family in Key of Fried Chicken & Fried Rice by Geramee Hensley

Today we invite you into this poem by 2023 Hurt & Healing Prize second place winner, Geramee Hensley! It’s an honor to publish this work.

If you haven’t already, you can view other winning poems from this contest here.


Ode to My Family in Key of Fried Chicken & Fried Rice

February 23rd, 2020

the sun doesn’t persist / it’s just like us / does what it does / ’til it can’t any longer / joy has been asking for fresh ways to enter our bodies / no measure

past mouths / flocked w/ feathers / we’re all breathless really / astonished another day has arrived

unasked / & sometimes stamped return-to-sender / makes clockwork look obnoxious / the cadmium of a bruise / pooling dead-

center in a day’s fat wet return / what used to bring me comfort / now bloats my belly & anxiety / I have changed

& won’t apologize / I’m sorry—the most Filipino meal to me / is KFC extra crispy / broken over swards of garlic fried rice / then irrigated w/ a mixture

of spiced vinegar & fish sauce / this meal is so Filipino / I won’t even tempt a sound / from my ma’s homeland / to try & prove

I can pronounce them through the jutted doors of my lips / won’t colonize one part of me / w/ another / I’m so

disjointed / you could call me / a republic / I’m so song / you can call me / warbling /
O Lord / make of me your most unwoke child / so stoked / I’m a boat

on fire / & also who ignited the sails / being muscled by music & water / is the only way I know how to let the wind in my mouth

w/o naming it invader / I am always the translator / of my own worst enemy / but I’m past that / when someone you love / really love

gives you their dying words / they give you a new name / it can be spoken only once before it becomes a part of your body / how you move / & breath

it becomes a soundless thing / they say take this fried chicken thigh & go on / you hear? / you gotta eat this thing w/o me for a minute / but you won’t be you

as you know you / as I know you / the last time I heard my ma say / I want that / we unboxed multi-colored hopia / & her eyes / widened like a tributary

flowing into some bigger version of itself / & her belly grunted want / & although she could barely chew or swallow / she took down half a piece

just by virtue of desire / & now I think about this / staring into my bowl of chicken & rice / how as I eat / I swallow every memory

of it too / how many meals like this / have met the farrow of my mouth / how many times have I said / I want that / how many times / will I choose / to utter it again

my new name is a silence / in my body / plugged w/ feathers / & spent lungs / I have more than memories / & more than want / but less than all you / always

but / what you gave me / what you gave me / I will give to myself / have it / a fried chicken thigh at the center of our swirling galaxy / all the cream

pools in the lowest pits / so sip so slowly / what doesn’t kill you / saves you for later / sometimes the future / just mean another meal

bruises, too, fill w/ the most astonishing light / I am so Pinoy I will never stop dancing / I am so my mother’s child / I will never be satisfied until my hands resemble

vases choked by what can make them more beautiful / I will never be more beautiful / never be more named / never claimed this way again / unseeded / unpotted / unheld

un-amen I say to you / the organ unbelieving pain / into a memory / un-goodbye I say to the day which rises / I have all this light in me / & nowhere else to go


Geramee Hensley

A writer from Ohio, Geramee is the editor in chief at Sonora Review and poetry editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Their work has been featured in Button Poetry,, The Journal, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Their work has won several awards including Booth Journal's Beyond the Margins Award and an Academy of American Poets Prize.

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