Stink Eye

By Cathy Song b. 1955 Cathy Song
Somebody been giving you Stink Eye?   
Let me tell you about Stink Eye.   
Stink Eye no mean nothing
when you owe somebody money.   
Pay up, girl. No be in debt.
But Stink Eye means something   
when you owe somebody nothing.
Remember when Connie Mamazuka, the girl with the mustache,   
grabbed your lipstick in the PE locker room   
and smeared it all over her big fat lips?   
Wasn’t ’cause she like your lipstick.   
Was ’cause you was one cute skinny chick.   
She was giving you Stink Eye all along   
and you never even know it.
Now you know it
and now you watch for it.
You was always catching Stink Eye,
always crying to your mother about somebody   
icing you out.
When Stink Eye is cold, it is fucking freezing,   
it can make you shiver and cry,
“But Mommy, Mommy, what did I do?”   
Took you long time to know
you never do nothing
but you was good at something,   
something Stink Eye like try steal   
not ’cause Stink Eye going use it.   
Stink Eye just no like
you use it
’cause if you use it
only going make Stink Eye feel
more ugly, feel more stupid.
Easy for spot
Stink Eye coming from one mousy thing.   
More tricky for spot
Stink Eye coming from some of the friendliest faces.
And you the dumb one, left dazed and hurt.
“But she seemed so sympathetic.”
Yeah, right.
Stink Eye sideswipes into you   
out of nowhere
where somebody been thinking   
evil thoughts about you,
wishing bad luck to blow bad breath upon you,
knock you down,
forget your words,
drop your tools,
make you sputter and drool.   
Under the bed,
in Stink Eye’s room,
get one picture of you
stabbed like one pin cushion   
with so many needles, stabbed
like one cactus, stabbed like one porcupine.
Stink Eye even dreams about you.   
Careful of that coat you wear,
the one you blossom in, feel loved in,   
the one that keeps you warm.   
Stink Eye like snatch it right off you   
’cause Stink Eye just no can stand to see
you look so cool.
Stink Eye wants a piece of you.
So choose to be naive, girl, or wake up
’cause Stink Eye been waiting to sit on your chest,
pounce on your flesh,
squeeze the living air right out of you,
watch you flatten like one used-up tube of toothpaste.   
Suck up your goodies,
ready to gorge on your talents,   
feast on your fears.
So girl, run fast, spell good, write well, add up, think quick,
talk sharp, walk pretty, jump high, throw hard, sing sweet,
leap far.
Now you know it
and now you watch for it
’cause Stink Eye gets bigger and meaner and stronger   
as you get better and smarter and stronger.
Scary thing about Stink Eye,
Stink Eye always looking for more—
as much as you willing to give.

Cathy Song, “Stink Eye” from The Land of Bliss. Copyright © 2001 by Cathy Song. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press,

Source: The Land of Bliss (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001)

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Poet Cathy Song b. 1955

Subjects Friends & Enemies, Youth, Life Choices, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Cathy  Song


Poet Cathy Song was born and raised in Hawaii and is of Korean and Chinese descent. Her work  draws on her rich Korean-Chinese ancestry as well as her experiences as an American and a woman. In poems that have been compared by critics to the muted tints of watercolor paintings, Song has consistently created a world rich with narrative and imagery that transcends her own ethnic and regional background. Song herself resists . . .

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SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Youth, Life Choices, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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