GUIDE TO MAKING A MOBILE
Dangle from a hook and shape-shift
between noun and adjective
Notice departure awaiting every limb:
movement will not engender loyalty
e.g. planet in its orbit
may code-switch to a different sun
Imagine a shadow more pale
more beautiful than your own cheek
Now hammer it into every joint
to make a believable body
Force a nail between your teeth
Spin it like a compass
Bend a tethered wire
to weights of unknown units
Burn red and blue
through arteries of unremembered cities
Startle like a sparrow
in a flaming tree.
ON MY FIRST HALLOWEEN
I dressed as a witch and went
nowhere. You look stupid,
my father told me
what I already knew.
I touched my cardboard face.
Even without the mask I was wicked,
holes for pupils,
every feature erasable.
Half Chinese, half ghost.
I became my own species the day
a white boy called me chink
and my father didn’t disagree with him.
In the grocery aisle he lowered himself
to pick up my face and put it back on.
Twelve years is old enough to know the danger
in asking for things that don’t belong to you
: Sweets. God. Country.
Immigrants don’t need Halloween
to give themselves a fright.
Look at your own pallid face,
You threw away the mask — it’s useless
trying to be a lesser monster.
But you dug it out of the trash.
For years it grimaced from the mirror,
A mouth pouring gap-toothed light.
Back then I admired your ability to murder anything
You’d dig your fingers in wrench out the gut of a fish
& toss it I learned to tuck sliced garlic in its belly
until the wound smiled gums gleaming
The trick was to make flesh forget it had once lived
August wet stink in the sink Mother
I whispered a man touched me You stared
at the boiling pot poked the bones with a chopstick
until meat flaked off clean & announced It’s ready
I chewed and swallowed felt serrated fins
caressing my ribs Mother don’t you know
ghosts are never done feeding Some days
the whole city is underwater Some days
I skate between rows of teeth My lover likes this dish
asks me where I got the recipe Nowhere I tell him
What’s another lie pretending water can
make me pristine I slide the knife onto its rack
the way you taught me blade facing in