my name is wolf (a boy/then a young man) by Chiwan Choi


at school from 1st grade through grad school / through four different languages the teachers / didnt tell me about the weight of time / embedded in your body like hauntings / in this house made of bones and skin // a year lost walking on my complexion / and first footsteps at venice beach / as demarcation of assuming this life / that was meant for someone else // all the years at my fathers church in culver city / filled with addicts and the lonely / i never wanted to meet god / i wanted a life extended / a life brought back / the one i was supposed to have // last night i hallucinated my daughter / asking us what she was supposed to be / what she could have been // i shuffled my feet on the rug / and soon even that small sound was gone


machetes in our small hands / we walked barefoot to the sugar canes. / i dont know how many of us there were— / i only remember gabriel, his skin dark the way / i wanted my body to be, in the 110 degree sun // we broke off big pieces off and sucked the sweet / then battled the dinosaurs in the creek / as my mom cried thinking my life / would be ruined if my skin didnt stay pale / and father waited to bring the switch to my calves // those summers in paraguay, i wanted to learn to fly / but my body was on fire (mom crying to save my future) / i prayed for wings but instead my daughter was taken / to outer space quietly to float / among the celestials, trying to remember the ashes and bones / she left behind.


as a boy / then a young man / until not anything that is meant to last / i wanted to tell my mother / what i wished for / was to be someone / i could love // but i lost the only language / i could have used / to turn on the light / in our apartments bright enough / long enough / for us to see our fingers were tangled / together / to float another day in the river // i learned how to say — / thank you / to say — / may i / to say — / i am not from here / to say — / nothing as they killed me // i sleep with my arms folded / wrist bent / all clutched to my chest / and wake up confused about the pain / except that i must deserve it / then spend time typing / as if my words are trapped in my arms / and in time / my head tremors will stop / and in time / i will learn to say — / i have lost my child / to say — / my parents too are leaving / to say — / i want to be / something / that i could love / that i could love / back

Chiwan Choi is the author of 4 books of poetry, The Flood (Tía Chucha Press, 2010), Abductions (Writ Large Press, 2012), The Yellow House (CCM, 2017), and my name is wolf (2022). He wrote, presented, and destroyed the novel Ghostmaker throughout the course of 2015. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The New York Times MagazineONTHEBUS, Esquire, and The Nervous Breakdown. Chiwan is a partner at Writ Large Projects. He was born in Seoul, Korea, spent his early childhood in Asunción, Paraguay, and now splits his time between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.