This is a true poem if i say so, after Rauschenberg By Eileen Chong

By Eileen Chong, Out Of School

At three, I learned how to bite to draw blood without breaking skin.

I was once a giant cat for whom trees were splinters and lakes, footbaths.

At ten, I set fire to a paper house so my grandfather could live in luxury.


Oysters speak in riddles, and spit at one another out of love and desire.

We collected dull brown shells from kelp, knowing they were rainbows.

I swam for seven days and seven nights before I entered the kingdom of coral and pearls.


I have never once wept out of anger or fear.

Nothing anyone says about me can hurt me any longer.

I do not read anything I write afterwards, for fear it might all come true.


Teaching note:

The title is a reference to Rauschenberg and his infamous telegram ‘portrait’ artwork, This Is A Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So, more here: