after K-Ming Chang
In our backyard, we bury all our ancestors’ bones
beneath tombstones of crushed moonstone & alabaster
willow. I ask Mama why we don’t light torches to their
vacated bodies, smoke the sky into ash. I pluck the answer
from the lilt of her tongue. I have her last name,
etched like a grave marker. Somehow, my children will too.
At church funerals, we are asked why I belong to her body
& not my fathers’. I say our ancestors willed this.
But the truth is, in my family, to wring a father’s name
unto a daughter is to launder her spirit to a foreign earth,
to bury her body before its birth. This language, lost in translation.
This loss, a fistful of cremated earth bruised into fruit.
What they never teach in English class is the difference
between murder & martyr. How murder is both noun & verb.
How murder moves. The closest a martyr has come to moving
is in stages, like life. Like the shadow of Mama threaded
by ghosts whiter than the harvest moon on the first night
Chang’e surrendered her humanity. Like women, always
arching their backs in bowstrings for men. Mama, my mother:
the Chang’e to my father’s Hou Yi, a blot of light
drenching the nine arrowed suns of heaven in scar tissues.
Mama, our mother: a mortal playing Nüwa, birthing creation
from a hemorrhage of meat. In the altar of this Christian god,
she is holiness in translation, the Queen Mother of the Western skies.
She wets her lips with immigrant tears, crying a river of moonlight
& breathes me into a flotation device born from liminal diaspora.
For years, she pretends I am not hers, says the American
word for daughter rhymes too much with slaughter. America:
a rootless burial, unending. How I have only witnessed white
women die & return to haunt as ghosts. How ghosts can only
be white. If what she says is true — that burial is beginning,
then I am the beginning of her end, evidence that blood
colors the body more than a patriarch’s name. Evidence
that only a woman can give blood & never a man.