Poets

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K-Ming Chang

K-Ming Chang is the author of Past Lives, Future Bodies (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), a Lambda Literary Award finalist in Lesbian Poetry. She is a “Resist / Recycle / Regenerate” program leader for the Wing On Wo Project, where she helps lead paper-making workshops as anti-gentrification resistance and community-building. She lives in New York.

By This Poet

1

Closet space

I know I’m godless when
my thirst converts water                into wasps, my country a carpet
                                                            I finger for crumbs. A country
my grandmother breeds
dogs instead of daughters             because only one can be called
                                                            home. I am trained to lose accents,
to keep a pregnancy
or cancel it out with                       another man. My tongue is
                                                            a twin, one translating
the other’s silence. Here
is my lung’s list of needs:               how to hold water
                                                            like a woman & not
drown. I want men
to stop writing &                            become mothers. I promise this
                                                            is the last time I call my mother
to hear her voice
beside mine. I want                        the privilege of a history
                                                            to hand back unworn
to grow out of
my mother’s touch                         like a dress from
                                                            childhood. Every time
I flirt with girls, I say
I know my way around                   a wound. I say let’s bang
                                                            open like doors, answer to
god. I unpin from
my skin, leave it to                          age in my closet & swing
                                                            from the dark, a wrecking
ball gown. In the closet
urns of ashes:                                   we cremated my grandfather
                                                            on a stovetop, stirred
every nation we tried
to bury him in was                          a war past calling itself
                                                            one. I stay closeted with
him, his scent echoing
in the urn, weeks-old                     ginger & leeks, leaks
                                                            of light where his bones halved
& healed. With small
hands, I puzzled                              him back together. I hid from
                                                            his shadow in closets
his feet like a chicken’s,
jellied bone & meatless.                His favorite food was chicken
                                                            feet, bones shallow in the meat
When he got dementia,
he flirted with my mother              he mouthed for my breasts
                                                            like an infant
We poured milk
into his eyeholes                             until he saw everything
                                                            neck-deep in white
the Chinese color
of mourning, bad                             luck, though the doctor
                                                            says everything is
genetics. I lock myself in
the smallest rooms that fit             in my mind, my grandfather’s:
                                                            a house we hired back from
fire. So I’ll forever
have a mother, I become                a daughter who goes by god. I urn
                                                            my ghosts, know each by a name
my own.