Stephanie Chang

So speak it, o dark. Give me my own name / to translate and I’ll only get so close.

Translucidity

I come star-starved. So this is what I stopped believing

in heaven for. O nothing-dark. Afterlife is rather

anticlimactic—O daughter I birthed in a bell jar

hoping it would do us some good. Say pulse,

say mirror painted over by smoke, say anyone

would lose half their mind in this loneliness.

Expect so much and disappoint so little.

Unlearn unlovable and we’re halfway home.

The body’s love language becomes yours

when you are left its last native speaker.

So speak it, o dark. Give me my own name

to translate and I’ll only get so close.

I spent a lifetime metaphoring this body

eager for nobody to know it was there.

Bent over the joss paper as it caught fire,

as if I had arms to arrive in. If only I hadn’t

paid for a place to sleep with my eyes—

but you know? Maybe I just wanted someone

to look out for me. Someone other than myself.

Dear dark, I came to you searching

for the wasteland that made me synonym

for my own harm. O dark that doesn’t

scream at the sight of my body, I’m saying

thank you. I’m relieved. I’ve decided this will do.

The way I believed you to be. The way you took

my body, scarred it open and threw me out.

Me, most unlovable. Me, my successor

who puts on a brave face, loves herself

and lets no one know.

Redstruck

The world ends when K crashes the car.

 

He apologizes. I can’t brace myself in the backseat fast enough. He smiles & I wake with eggshells in my mouth. Instead of yolks, sorrys swim in albumen. I want to apologize. I break my voice to do it.

 

/

 

The world ends with a girl crash-landing in Cantonese character soup.

 

Meanwhile, scientists announce that the body we call space is just silence repeated forever. The girl is probed at for signs of extraterrestrial life, sweat swabbed for silkworms. Research shows a tongue trained to salivate at spice. What the numbers don’t prove is how the subject was so well-acquainted with disaster, even before she got here.

 

/

 

The world ends at the grocery store.

 

A man at the self-checkout sighs. He dials a number, passes the phone to me. My mother picks up. I tell her I’ll be home soon, see, I bought the peaches you asked for. I say I love you, because someone has to. The man crumples a lottery ticket without checking if he won. I count the lights overhead—one by one, blinking to black.

 

/

 

The world ends with the carp spoiled on bread crumbs.

 

They float bellies-up. Scales shimmering a signal to flocks of whale in the sky. A tsunami takes out the people I love in a single smirk.

 

/

 

The world ends, McDonald’s at midnight.

 

V orders a burger with a side of bad jokes. I submerge chicken nuggets in amber sauce while spider-lilies fester around the windows. The apocalypse must have its agents, I say. Look, I’m trying to be funny. We talk about nothing until a throatful of blades root in my trachea.

 

V goes on pretending he’s fine. He notes: something has been loving me beyond recognition.

 

/

 

The world ends on a sloppy movie kiss.

 

Cut—let’s try again. Real coming-of-age shit. The male lead talks too much & don’t they all. Isn’t it more realistic, never getting it right?

 

/

 

The world ends when I block V’s number.

 

No, I don’t feel like being generous. Yes, I’m choosing not to forgive. No, I’m not the one who should apologize. No, I’m not a very nice girl. Yes, this was probably a mistake. No, I don’t regret knowing you. No, I’m not lying. Yes, I always thought you were. Yes, I should have known better. Yes, I’m doing better now.

 

/

 

The world ends when I find the woman’s photograph in my father’s wallet & I can’t help but think she’s pretty.

 

/

 

The world ends every Sunday I don’t wake up for church.

 

At dawn, a preacher finds a hole in the stained-glass ceiling. Then a body. My brothers & sisters mourn by touching themselves to tears. Perfume their tongues & proselytize all these terrible things.

 

/

 

The world ends when B drives the car into high tide.

 

She’s crying & I can’t remember why, only that the whales have left the stratosphere. Only that nothing good ever comes from a cliffhanger. Somewhere, a film plays on loop, so the heroine never learns from her mistakes.

 

/

 

The world ends with a daughter orphaned by her city.

 

Hong Kong. A city that falters on cellophane & shrimp dumplings. Before they banish me, I parasite color from night market laughter, scrape the mango sweetener from shaved ice & sugar my hands in koi droppings. The paper net I use to trap fish looks like an eggshell. I’m sorry. But I can’t remember why.

 

/

 

The world ends so quietly nobody realizes it ended. We end just days after.

 

/

 

The world ends when Chang’e’s moon rabbit moves to Mars.

 

At the top of Taipei 101, I unscroll a love letter that reaches the city sewers. I tell the girl I love her & we are the last to go.

 

/

 

The world ends in a thunderstorm where my father jokes that every boom is just a thunder god’s fart & I laugh because I am five & believe adults are always right.

 

That night, I dream of Meng Po & her soup of reincarnation. She stirs a pot, pinches my cheek when I refuse to sip. The spoon bobs at my lip. Meng Po shakes her head, says believe me, if you loved this life, you’ll leave its memories behind. I drink. She gestures for me to cross the bridge.

 

/

 

The world ends as nothing but sea, amber & bloodshot.

Stephanie Chang is a rising freshman at University College London. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Kenyon Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hobart, Penn Review, and diode poetry journal. She interns for Sine Theta, a creative arts magazine by and for the Sino diaspora. Her micro-chapbook, NIGHT MARKET IN TECHNICOLOR, is forthcoming from Ghost City Press this August 2020.

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