after Shira Erlichman
Instead of teaching you how to say 我爱你,
I’ll don my Chinese name. I’ll drape
myself in the mélange of 王书瑶—
no, not 王, as in Is it Wang or Wong? Not 忘,
because despite all the living, let me not forget
how to be soft-bodied. I want the 王,
as in filing the Title IX report, no matter
the years that have elapsed.
As in my father’s steadfast belief in God,
despite the overhead silence & the evolving
reasons to quit. As in, I’ll hold myself
at night if I have to. Oh, & how I adore
the perfume of 书, the mist
of words my parents threaded
into my name.
I, too, want to linger
in space. It was the 东风,
the wind billowing from the motherland, that insisted
I smell the air. The salt of the Dalian sea wrinkling
my mother’s toes.
Ginger & garlic at every meal to cleanse
the body, to find the 王. But I can’t leave
the house without 瑶. The Chinese superhero cape.
secret power. Don’t you forget the 王
rooted within it. 瑶 as in the resplendence
of mother-of-pearl. I want to see
my parents holding me in the hospital, small
& devastating, convinced
that I knew how to produce
my own shelter. 瑶 because
how do I teach you to possess this faith?
I want 瑶 not for merely reflecting
the light, but 瑶, as in, let me embody
this whole skeleton.
Read more from Issue No. 26 or share on Facebook and Twitter.