Watching the Winter Olympics at 3 a.m., and I Want to Win Gold
in something, anything, as my infant daughter drains
my left breast, and men on skis soar over a mountain peak
near Beijing. He’s worked hard, he’s here to win the gold!
an announcer says about the American skier.
An American myself, I see ambition and want
to spread it over a slice of rye and eat it fast.
The announcers remark on the skier’s straight form
as he ascends over a rooftop, and my own ambition
leaves through my nipples and enters my daughter’s
3 a.m. meal. I feel close to her during these feeds,
but also, it is early, and I have trouble opening my eyes,
even as the spectacle of human physical perfection
glides across my screen. As a child, I watched
the Olympics, and I’d feel inspired to do crunches
on my unmade bed, envious of the beautiful physiques.
I too wanted determination, ambition, a winning body,
a winning face. My mother tried to help me,
massaging my legs with baby oil to make them
shapely, pulling at my nose with her garlicky fingers
so it’d grow long, like her Spanish grandfather’s,
like a skier’s straightness landing on my face’s pale
slope. She wanted to grant me an American nose,
one that she believed might compete in the nose
Olympics, win gold. Nevertheless, my nose remained
round and wide and largely untalented, unable to tell
the difference between cilantro and parsley, thyme
and tarragon. When my daughter was two days old,
I overheard a relative say about her nose, Unfortunately
it’s flat, not an American nose, but what can we do? Thinking
about it now, this comment still hurts my heart,
my daughter, only hours out of the womb, already
woman, already a target. When she finishes her meal,
the American skier wins silver, not gold, and I wonder
if he’s still proud? Or, disappointed? Sore? Daughter’s
all done, whips her head back, her hands relaxed,
her stomach full and tight. I place her over my shoulder,
listen for her strong burp, a winning burp,
one that could surely compete in the burp Olympics.
I turn off the television, bring her back to her bassinet,
swaddle her so that her arms and hands,
which have minds of their own, don’t wake her or scratch
her face. Both our bodies have done their jobs
for the morning, and now we deserve rest. And I remember,
after I gave birth to her, the nurse said the first milk
that I produce, colostrum, will be rich in nutrients
and antibodies. Liquid gold, she called it. And this
was the first thing she ate outside the womb:
pulled from my breasts, my body’s gift to hers.
MARIANNE CHAN grew up in Stuttgart, Germany, and Lansing, Michigan. She is the author of All Heathens (Sarabande Books, 2020), which was the winner of the 2021 GLCA New Writers Award in Poetry, the 2021 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry, and the 2022 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, New England Review, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Cincinnati.