I am deposited
into the arms of a 
blurry-faced workwoman who

sews sorrow with threads
of purpose, beading so I may


taste the fruits of a faraway land

even once the boat has departed.
Her feet firmly planted on the dock

as I cast out a line
from the soul she once breathed

into my body

A red-faced man cradles me,

singing softly words that
carry comfort without recognition,

xiǎo mèngxiǎng jiā, xiǎo mèngxiǎng jiā, 
hǎohǎo xiūxí
little dreamer, little dreamer,

— I am the light in our squalid shed

rest well, rest easy, 

with the weightlessness of
what is to come.

It’s 1888,

the entropy of San Francisco 

pressing in on all sides

clumsy hands, rough with heartache and homesick

pass me from place to place as
the man—my father—rolls cigars

under a searing sun,

its blazing yellow orb

like the haunting stare of 

the ghost tiger hung for all to see.

yellow is putrid, i hate the moon woman

who tells me i am like the fever,
too bestial for her children.

I hate more the lǎoshī who scolds me

for my yellow skirt —

we’re not allowed to wear our skin, she says.

I taste her words on my tongue

like acid,

oh these fruits are full of seeds,

astringent & amaroidal, tearing at my

flesh so they can burrow into my heart,

grow roots that claw up my esophagus,

gasping for air, for speech

for words I cannot—will not—say.

a lifetime of self-hatred,

I watch my father wither away

in his cigars, the tendrils of his soul

rise like smoke to touch the sky

where my mother resides, long-forgotten

restful soul.

I see the sunrise like her embrace

offering a new beginning, an invitation

to burn me from the inside out, purge

what shame awaits, what forsaken identity

watches through my eyes but

remains unseen.

For those that came before,

I traipse a lurid wire of uncertainty

& go where I am unwelcome,

plant ideas where I am shooed away

but not before leaving

a piece of me
& saying my truth

—this is what i shall pass on.

I see my great grand-daughter,

hair of fire, skin of steel,

mind full of stones to throw,

burdened by the seed
of her mother & 
her mother

& me at the very root

sowing rage &

resentment into

the fields of knowledge, of forgotten ghosts,
laying fodder for the beast 

so that someday I will ascend,

return to the warmth 
of the woman who promised

me eternity

& a life somewhere half-between
wonderful & feared.

Photo Credit: Kristoffer Trolle


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