they got the dragon, Loong, from the flag of the Qing dynasty

tattooed back home in Manila,

said it was a gang thing but that may have been a bluff,

and I wanted badly to trace the scales along the fur of their forearm,

while the charming rasp of a voice that's been smoking since it was 10

told me this place of mesquite and mosquitoes was as boring

as our job counting heads in the colonias.

so we went about our census duties,

looking like a couple of mormon missionaries,

lean frames in oversized attire,

stained cuffs from Milano's marinara.

at the last trailer-home, I recited the Spanish on the questionnaire,

then asked the lady in the doorway about her esposa. ¿esposa?

she cocked her head and laughed -- ah, esposo.

only a vowel to me, ignorant as I am.

later, as we lay, seats back, in my old toyota,

I've already forgot the distinction, meaning only to kiss

their small, plain face carried with such ease,

that I could carry it as gently as our lips now touching,

no boxes to check or hovering questions –

only the certainty of skin to skin.

we stop as soon as we begin

because I was stupid and afraid.

you never come for coffee at savory perks or wait for me at the skating rink after work.

another decade, I'm taking census of the dirt.

new identities and orientations, my sister's partner's pronouns,

new checkboxes and new sounds,

and I remember these all the same,

but all I want is to remember their name.

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