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IR ONLINE POETRY: “Immunity” by Steven Chung

Two decades, I finally notice
we use curtains not to shut out strangers
but to make them curious. The pool,
rather, is how we hide ourselves
from prying eyes. It’s impolite
to stare at half-naked men and women
pretending to be marine mammals.
I’m not talking about the Dead Sea,
where any person without swimming
lessons can float. Funny how we’re
most buoyant with desolation
just below us. Like the ocean,
I’ve swallowed too many wishes,
words. How I’ve learned that secrets
are boring because no one
shares them, because even a whisper
multiplies to more than one. Funny
how we try to kill all that proliferates,
put chlorine in our spaces. I thought
I was immune to every threat, the thrill
of them, believed that speaking to a higher
power would make me immortal.
That speaking to someone
else would waste my breath and blood.
It’s obvious: we aren’t allowed
to pick our poisons, but our poisons
let us live. What I love: people,
not their faces, but the shadows
they make on covered windows.


Steven Chung splits his time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Vermont, where he is a freshman at Middlebury College. His poems appear or are forthcoming in FIELD, Florida Review Online, Passages North, Rattle, Redivider, and elsewhere.