Rosebud Ben-Oni

All That Is and Is Not Nuclear Is Our Family

I highly recommend disconnecting.

I realize the strangeness of telling you this over a connection.

But here comes and goes, so I have to send things when it’s working.

Things are a little rough here.

In cities I am everywhere.

I don’t get lonely. I lose faith that how things are

Are also how things will always be. In forever uphill rising

Streets I have a calling. She calls me from her high-rise

Office at the World Bank to warn me after ten years of this

She’s leaving Hong Kong— leaving the country

For the week her in-laws visit.

You say for ten years your sister’s just teasing.

You tell me that woman is not blood. This is not to say you

Do not treat me well. You humor me

At the shishi dim sum place

Hidden away like a speakeasy. You eat everything

I order. Often I get a pass others do not. If I have too much

To drink, you say my best thing

Is one face, not two. This is not about saving face.

We get it all out in the open, you and I.

We aren’t the kind to get lonely

When we fight. You say I can’t help but look like things meant

To keep you in line. You say I always take your wife’s side.

We are not bad people. We understand the difference.

Difference is flickering neon until the other loses sight.

Now I’m writing this on the rooftop in a little room

You built without permission, next to a washroom

You built to make me more comfortable. Early this morning

You squeezed through the crowds at the bakeshop

To bring me a red bean bun, right out of the oven.

You remind me fish is only fresh when alive

And gasping. On the rooftop, wild cockatoos

Eat the shishi seed I recommended to you.

You never make it in time to see them.

I want to be a good daughter to you.

But then my mind wanders and Icelandic horses

Disperse through Hong Kong skyline where blood-or-not nieces

And nephews clear out of their six-days-a-week offices.

Poetry, you say, is the furthest, furthest thing from you.

What long lines, where and why they break

You won’t see. Here I have no grievances. I still see the island

In this city, and you correct me: autonomous territory.

Autonomy, we agree, is never real in full nor fully

Realized. I say it’s like coming to know a new

Father. You say one day you want to be yourself

Around me. I say once in cities I was everywhere but here

I write to you in a little room while you make your deliveries.

Dinner tonight at your favorite Vietnamese place

And then shopping in a night market. Only your son,

My husband, would chose such neutral territory.

I study the map to Ladies Market, chart the longest route.

Because you ask me to lead. Because you say nothing

When I take the wrong street. I never ask for help.

You never say we are lost.

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, and a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of Solecism (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013) and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog. Find her at