Back to Issue Twenty-Six.

Girl on girl on fire

BY KRISTIN CHANG

On fire I’m unfuckable, I’m war
bridegroom, the knife piloting
the wound. I’m the eye

bleeding sight. The screen scabbing
over me, the camera angled
for entry. I hook you

like a lure. I storyboard origin:
where a girl grows from god’s side
wound & my mouth

mentors her pleasure. Turn down
your eyes. I’ve little-spooned
the moon & screwed the stars

back into my skull. Whoever
said fear is a foothold
has never climbed

me. Mount an axe where the sky
should be. Mountains are named
for their view, what you want to see

atop me. Expect to bleed
today. I trade my feet
for a landscape of losses:

a sea made of teeth, your nipples
roaming my mouth. My thumbs
wet thorns, my threefold thighs

& double-dog hunger, each barkless
tree I skinned alive with my teeth. God
bills me for my birth & I pay

back with my life. I’m alive
now that I’m dead, I look
like my mother’s mother, the one

who skipped her face like a stone
across three seas, the one I receive
like a bullet to the bone, my breasts blown

glass. My knock-out ass. You can’t
convince me history isn’t
pornography. I have a body

but nowhere to bury it.
I have a harness but no horse
to breed for it. What we call

tame you call talent. What
you call country I call
no one picking up. Tonight

my mother shipwrecks my fantasies, rains
my bed into a riverbank, turns
my girl back into a pyre, my body back

to a movie birth scene, false
blood & stagelight, my mother calling cut
her out of me, the camera

my father & I
its foundling. 

 

 

LETTER FROM MY GRANDMOTHER IN TSINGTAO

BY KRISTIN CHANG

Once in a drought, I dropped
          all my children down a well
to make the water rise.

Mothers always choose their own
          mouths over mourning. The myth
of hunger begins like this:

in Tsingtao, the German army
           stole rice & millet, fed our bodies
to bullets. They built

churches to keep a god & barns
          to keep their women. How many girls
can be stolen from

the same body? I sold
          myself to a soldier
for the price of a fish.

I gutted out his green eyes,
          gave them back to my children.
Even a fish mistakes the sea

for safety, the fisherman’s
          hook for god. I raised you like a river
outrunning her land. I nursed you

native to thirst & rain
          outsourced from a foreign sky.
I taught you to butcher

a bird & convert its bones
          into perches. I taught you
every woman needs

a man like a weapon
          needs motive. The nation
I was born in now

belongs to burning. History starts
          like a housefire & I braid smoke
into your hair. I once beat you

for forgetting to pray
          before bed. Remember
to take the lord’s name

nightly like a pill. Kneel
          now & remember I knot
your tongue to mine

so you never drift far
          from my hunger. I alphabetize
my gods by country

of origin, America always
          first. Daughter, count soldiers
til you sleep. One of them

will hold you by the black
          of your hair. One of them
will father you & the other

is your son. There is no ridding
          a sheet of blood. Grieve that your eyes
are green. Surrender your skin

fasting into a white flag. 

 

 

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Kristin Chang lives in New York, and reads for Winter Tangerine. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net, and she has been anthologized in Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3. She is a 2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar (selected by the Adroit Journal), the recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, and a Resist/Recycle/Regenerate Fellow with the Wing On Wo Project in Manhattan Chinatown, where she teaches paper-making workshops as anti-gentrification resistance and community building. Her debut chapbook Past Lives, Future Bodies is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (October 2018).

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