A Portrait by Teresa Choe

Cheap newspaper coupons and smiling Walmart stickers.

A man with a deep, hooded voice that resonates with gravity,

who wears polyester sweatpants, who over seasons the soup,

who never gives me lunch money.


He is odourless, intangible; his hands crawl inside my spine.


His soap is white, static, scentless.

He opens my mother’s mail, forges her signatures on the bills,

but uses his name for discounts and rebates.


He never goes out, he owns the biggest room, the one

with the bathroom next to it. He broke the keyboard,

the washing machine, and the vacuum. He watches

cheap pornography—I look through his stuff.


His teeth are rows of shackled, dingy houses, crooked

and spineless. They hold raucous parties during twilight,

full of harlots and papery smoke.


“Still,” my mother tells me, “I bought this house. It’s under my name.”


Socks with holes in them and crusty, chapped lips.

I don’t know what he lives for. I don’t know why he’s here.