‘How I became fatherless’ by Kristin Chang

— Joyce Chong

I drive
across two states, counting roadkill, recording
my speed in miles
per dead thing.

Today I have this beautiful poem by Kristin Chang that does what I always imagined good poetry should; skirt the line between beautiful and painful, the vivid and uncertain. There are too many moments in this poem I want to share with you that I could come near enough to reciting the entire thing back to you.

He smiles with rubbled
teeth, cavities clean as bulletholes. Asleep, he’s still as a shot
& skinned animal.

There’s something about retracing difficult moments, conflicting or painful memories, laying recollection down on the dissection table, that doesn’t always translate perfectly to poetry. This is a perfect example of the opposite. It begins to feel like poetry is the only way to remember, to work backwards in a way that shapes sense from circumstance, if that’s at all possible. The language and imagery is crisp and rich, evoking a juxtaposition of sensory input that leaves a negative afterimage lingering when you shut your eyes; the sensation of something alive, something bright and breathing and sweet, something waiting to be unspooled.

In California, my first fatherless
home is infested with beehives
vibrating walls into muscle.


Frontier Poetry