Alison Lubar

trompe l’œil, le cœur
Eastern Chinese Restaurant 
Bethlehem PA, 1993

I always think the rice is ice cream, 
double take at the perfect scoops 
in a silver bowl. It might be a vase. 
I am not completely disappointed. 
When I’m warned I might not like some-
thing I trick myself to trick them. Yes, jelly-
fish is a noodle from the sea. Broccoli is 
my favorite part of this. I learn to be 
unexpected. I let Oji 
drop the fish cheek 
on my plate but let a squirm
escape at the sight of the next
delicacy, the eyeball. He teases 
but not to be cruel 
this time. Love is 
saving the best 
parts for someone 
else. Even when 
it looks like some-
thing else.

The King of Horses
Edison NJ, 2013

Horsebites never bruise. Your index and middle finger 
curl to fangs, knuckles turn into the mandible of the beast 
little girls never think their ponies will grow up to be, 
or Black Beauty, who lost use of a limb and then his life, 
useless because there’s no majesty in standing with a crutch. 

The horsebites from Ojisan were nothing 
compared to what other little girls might have suffered 
from a long line of lost pride and a grasping for power.

I never saw you in hospice, at the veteran’s hospital, 
in a British suit and beret, cigar, and nothing to note 
you’re Japanese except your eyes and skin and nails,
nothing to belie the ancestral line of samurai. I can’t 
imagine you any smaller, as you must have been, 
eighteen years ago when I was ten, was the last time 
I saw you. You filled out the plastic lawn chair, 
yellow plaid woven seat and back around 
the hollow aluminum frame. 

You’d sit in my parents’ driveway, like a king, 
afraid of owning anything yourself. The apartment 
you shared with Bonnema temporary enough to let you 
think of leaving, but you went from nothing special 
among girls to the exotic and dark, handsome and dashing, 
“The Oriental Fred Astaire” they called you.
And I’m still exotic, too, and so lucky, too, to seem 
so foreign and dangerous and unbridled 
and ready to bite.

From the author: This couplet explores the relationship that I had with my grandfather, or Oji, Jack. He survived the Japanese Internment, and was incarcerated in Tule Lake. These two poems consider the complexity of our relationship, especially in the last decade of his life, the repercussions of intergenerational trauma, and the nuances of being mixed-race. As a couplet, they examine the difficulty of both showing and receiving love, and the weight of legacy. What have our predecessors given us, and do we have to accept it all?

Alison Lubar teaches high school English by day and yoga by night. They are a queer, nonbinary, mixed-race femme whose life work (aside from wordsmithing) has evolved into bringing mindfulness practices, and sometimes even poetry, to young people.  Their work has been nominated for both the Pushcart & Best of the Net, and they’re the author four chapbooks: Philosophers Know Nothing About Love (Thirty West Publishing House, 2022), queer feast (Bottlecap Press, 2022), sweet euphemism (CLASH!, 2023), and It Skips a Generation (Stanchion, 2023). You can find out more at or on Twitter @theoriginalison.