Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 19, 2018.
About this Poem 

“After hearing a poem of mine in which I attempt to reach out to my parents (again), my brilliant friend Muriel Leung suggested that I write a piece demanding my parents meet me where I am, instead. That suggestion made me realize that the kind of relationship I want with my parents is one where they educate themselves and change their homophobic behavior, without me constantly pushing them to. This poem doesn’t depict an ideal situation where the relationship is completely healed; it examines the often slow and frustrating reality, while leaving things open for some surprise.”
—Chen Chen

I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party

In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time 
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay. 

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend 
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time, 

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him 

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be 
enjoyable. Please RSVP. 

They RSVP. They come. 
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend 

the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going? 

I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair  

of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars 
is watching from the outside.  

My boyfriend responds in his chipper way. 
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting, 

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best 
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend 

Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing 
a Little Better Smile. 

Everyone eats soup. 
Then, my mother turns 

to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you 
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like 

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling 
on the string that makes my cardboard mother 

more motherly, except she is 
not cardboard, she is 

already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting 
for my answer. 

While my father opens up 
a Boston Globe, when the invitation 

clearly stated: No security 
blankets. I’m like the kid 

in Home Alone, except the home 
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone, 

& not the one who needs 
to learn, has to—Remind me 

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says 
to my mother, as though they have always, easily 

talked. As though no one has told him 
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets 

slasher flick meets psychological 
pit he is now co-starring in. 

Remind me, he says 
to our family. 

Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.