Kristin Chang

Kristin Chang’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Nailed magazine, witch craft mag, fog machine lit, Luna Luna magazine, Queen Mobs Teahouse, and elsewhere. She is currently working on an anthology of translated Taiwanese poetry. She is on the poetry staff of Winter Tangerine Review and is located at kristinchang.com.
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My mother’s first
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time was with a white man
& she’s making metaphors.
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We forget that moths are attracted
to what hurts them. That thirst
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is the only difference between
the facts & the confession.
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Tonight is a parted thigh & I will not
go in gentle. She undresses him
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to the bone, her tongue pickling
in the maw. He assimilates to her body
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like teeth to a meal, hurt to a
cut. How my body preserves:
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by swallowing two live mice
& my own mouth. Mother says that
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the core of every planet is an animal
struggling to escape. She grows a blowhole
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& sprays gasoline, oils her bones
for his throat. He crawls
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headfirst into her hipbone, roosts
like a sign of rot & I dream
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of splitting my organs like trees & counting
the rings curled there like fists. Each number
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the name of a boy. Mother named me after
a province with a church in it, hoped
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us holy. But we choose our bodies
like pockets to pick. But these days
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I think every white man could be my father.
The one who says he’s irish, the one who
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hogties my hands on the weekends, the one who
always asks me to wear something collared.
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These days, I’m under the law
of temporary residence, he’s under
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the law of creation must be violent.
I’m tired of having a name, of being
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told I’m the kind of animal that’s
more valuable dead than lost.
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Instead I want leg hairs that grow
downward & fatten to roots. Instead
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I imagine he always told her, you’ll
want to be clean for this, when all she
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really wanted was something to stain
her teeth on. A fist of sherbert
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bright as a wound, as lick it
to make it last longer. Her tongue
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tires & each time he prunes
her mouth away faster. Everywhere
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morning lifts its skirt. I’ve taken
to teething again. I want to remember
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when it hurt to learn hunger. Mother’s taken
to telling the same story over & over,
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the one about a neighborhood woman
who wore her umbilical cord for life:
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This so she could never
be parted from her body.
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Matt Damon saves China from the dragons
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& I play his off-screen wife. I call him my warrior, he calls me his bang-up job. I armor him in
tea leaves, line his insides with silt from the Huangpu. He miscarries my name in his mouth,
mounts the wall, kabobs dragon after dragon with his new body, all bone. A new song scrapes
the rungs of our throats. He pins me to my tongue with an on-screen kiss, his breath curled in my
jaw like a syllable of hurt. Zoom-in on his fists, his knucklemeat blonding in the light. Pan out on
the wall, amassing its dead, thighbones carved to curbs, cheekbones snagging bootsoles. A
million bodies cancelled like a light switch. Flashback to my mother, cheeks halved like peaches.
Flashback to my father, the kind of man who only eats the parts of fruit that soft with dying.
Flashforward to our marriage, Matt and I feeding on dragonflesh, his nightly fist removing my
teeth so that I can clean them. On our wedding bed, I widowed my skin, slipped beneath him like
blood. I tell him he will never know if he borrowed this country or it borrowed him. I can only
ask him to count the bones as he walks my bloodline like a tightrope. I can only forcefeed
him his own mouth. In the mirror, my eyes hood over with scales. My bones fork, my hands
clot to claws. I fang. Heave out the fire. Cue to burn. Cue to exit. If this is not proof. If this is not
a body that has always known extinction.

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