Johnson Cheu | CHRYSALISM


The amniotic tranquility of being inside during a thunderstorm.
……– from John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Outside, a thunderstorm darkens. Violence lurks.
At a border. An office. An airport. A market.
A railway yard. A subway station. A mall.


A school. A restaurant. A rally. A concert.
Safe inside, the rain taps. If caught
in a thunderstorm, you fear your power


wheelchair becoming a divining rod
for lightning, rendering you into a ghost.
Some ghosts you already contend with:


 Ugly ghost. Useless ghost.
Better-unseen ghost. Better-off-dead ghost.
Misfortune ghost. Crippled ghost.


Ghosts you’ve been called, ghosts you’ve laboured
to quell, coiled ready to strike at your most vulnerable.
You dwell between phantoms and the fleshed.


Some amputees, (you are not one), experience
the phenomenon, Phantom limb. Their amputated
limbs still tingle in body, in brain, reaching to be of use.


Stay inside ghost-ridden, or risk the outdoor
world of storm and calm, sorrow and delight,
of usefulness. Stepping outdoors proclaims,


I am here, World, despite everything, despite
ugliness, despite violence, despite sorrow.
See me. My arms are open to greet you.

Author’s Bio

Johnson Cheu served as the inaugural fiction/poetry editor of Disability Studies Quarterly. His poetry has appeared widely in periodicals such as North American Review and Rattle, as well as anthologies such as Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images. He is also the editor of scholarly film collections on Disney, Tim Burton, and Robin Williams.