Two Poems by Kristin Chang





call me friendly
      fire, fatal

pitch of light through
      the jaw, you

are too late to this scene:
      my dress already wrecked

on the riverbed, the river
      kneeling in my

throat. a woman
      once sank her children

in this river. now
      it gives up

its dead, spits bones
      in the mud

like rumors of a body,
      no nation 

is ever big
      enough for everything 

it wants, snip me
      from my scenery

& bob my limbs
      down the river like infants

what is ruin
      if not the body becoming

aware of itself? 
      let’s say a thing

birthed in water
      can become water.

let’s say it is easy
      to raise a daughter

from the dead: the first step
      is to slit a stranger’s

throat, release its crows. 
      the second is to write a poem

that leaves space for a
      body. when ICE took

my mother, she folded
      inward like a fist, blood

pouring through her ribs
      like light through a forest

of sap-mouthed trees. a stopped
      heart is nothing

like a slain dragon. two wars
      taught us that a gun

can deliver the body &
      nothing more. what

to do when your country
      ignores all its best

disasters. can a birth in
      blood be rendered in light.

can a girl outlive
      her myth, bullet

hole her song
      & give every space

a mouth






It is impossible to kill something directly:
there is always a body in the way. 
Dear body, you win. 
I lost you to the weather
& you agreed to die without me. 
There is no such thing as
movement, only accumulation. 
History is the church
& not the worship. History is the ear
& not what it records. So many words
for god & none of them
mean want. If a flock of crows
is a murder, a flock of mouths must
be a conquest. Before language,
there was your mother
the masseuse who kneaded
the necks of white women, your
mother who grew a new tooth for every
word you forgot in her language,
her mouth a fanged cave
& yours empty. Before you,
there was your father’s
fist wearing your blood like plumage,
fist choking your name
like a bottleneck. At night, I remove
the moon from its socket like an eye, 
slot myself in.  I am sonless, I
rule from the sky with its sun
knocked out, I am done
with Earth. I don’t belong
to what birthed me.