by K Ming Chang
Adoption (See Orphan.)
Drop napalm on a suburb & it will belly-crawl from creek to creek, begging for a drink. In the aftermath, smoke cures our meat, stings our sprayed-open backs. In the aftermath, the grocery store’s meat aisle stocks packaged ash. My mouth grows a bomb radius & I abstain from kissing. With all the newly dead, the mayor demands that we adopt their former odors, wear them like our own – I adopted the scent of a man who’d been a butcher & now I smell like his beef. This year, the Fourth of July firecrackers gives us all nightmares: about waking up inside the bones of an eaten animal, about watching death happen in reverse: pieces of a child’s face repetaled into a tulip. Children always learn to tally before they count. | for the last wall of the house still standing. || for the backyard river, too shallow for the bodies to sink. ||| for the legs we kept of a boy blown off his knees.
Adjustment to Immigrant Status
Dilate a word until it is wearable, until it belts you like a waist. I let all my dresses out last season, made room for my extra set of ribs, the pouch of my left breast swelling with the papers I sewed in: name, registration number, former arrests. Even though the alien may have been in the United States for an extended period of time, the alien should not expect a call-back. The alien’s wardrobe is too shabby. The alien sometimes forgets how to spell. On multiple occasions, the alien has been a reckless endangerment: she once sped all night through the neighborhood, collecting dead birds on her windshield. One from each native species.
If sex is making room in the body for other bodies, I know it too well. A body can never know how many holes have been in it. In a dream of my father’s, he loses count somewhere below the waist.
In order to qualify for benefits under this law, an alien must have been fathered by a U.S. citizen. These days, I think every white man could be my father. I follow them everywhere: at airports, through parks, in department stores as they shop for their small wives. One man I am sure was him: clean hands, red tie, he filled my mouth with the salt of a sea. His taste the taste of drowning. Like I always dreamed, he took me to Halfmoon Bay at low tide & we stuck the baby starfish to our palms. When I held him in my palm, I learned to love what made me. From time to time, I think about my father, his country, clean hands. I like to think of his hands as clean. I like to think I owe nothing to his body.
An alien becomes removable when he/she cannot be forgiven for trespass. An alien becomes removable when she begins to think of herself as named. When she begins to think of herself as an infestation of holes, an arrest of blood in the veins. Her list of offenses: sneaking powdered pork through an airport. Speeding in a residential zone. Public acts of nudity. For example, the time I undressed on the subway, touched myself, yanked at my knobbing flesh. Pretended that all my parts are removable.
His/her fear of persecution must be well-founded. The alien may prove to you, but you must also prove to her. Name all of your friends who are Asian. Name the first line of the Constitution, an Amendment if you can. Name one thing she eats for breakfast. Name what timezone she was born in. Name the church you want to marry her in. Name the names of children you will have with her, the ones with her genes but at least your citizenship. Name all the times you have taken her body, taken from it, eaten. Name all the countries along the equator. Name all the countries that contain her dead. Name all the ways she could die. Include yourself. Name all the women who have died by men of your hands, your face. Name a mirror where your face didn’t appear. Name a mirror where only you have appeared. Name a crime. List yourself as evidence. List her as living. Kiss her with your eyes open, let her bite your ear & lean closer & say: I live as evidence of what may kill me.
*All terms and italicized portions taken from the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration dictionary
This poem first appeared in The Margins (Asian American Writers' Workshop).
K Ming Chang lives in NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Shade Journal,Nightblock, VINYL, Nailed Magazine, the Asian American Writers Workshop, and elsewhere. She has been twice-nominated for a Best of the Net Award and is currently on staff at Winter Tangerine.