A LETTER FROM MY FATHER TO ME
My mother asked me to kill
a spider, so I take her body out
into the rice fields and I let
the millet swell up beneath me in
a furious roar. A burning now
nested into my fugitive lungs.
I’m trying to be honest. All great
murders begin at the mirror,
where my mother curses her
hands for my filth, & I watch
without saying a word. All learned
discipline is violent by nature,
& I have only ever been fearful
of that—to be a monster & her
reflection all at once. To look
in the mirror find her staring
back at me from the bus seat
window, her same stories of hunger
seeping into the moving city.
Or to find my father, what pieces
I know of him, what wars he’s
left me here to fight for him.
& eventually I believe all battles
are part of him, part of me,
& all of you. I thought the war
would end with your being,
with this migration that leaves
everything behind. This flight
without return. I thought you’d
believe every lie I’ve told myself.
So I think I raised a monster, that death-
curled creature in the center
of my palm, its front legs pressed
together in prayer, its eight eyes reflecting
god. I think I raised a killer,
who sharpens her knife on my teeth
& tries to run from her reflection.
But at least I am young,
because in four years I have another
daughter, and I learn to love her too
with the back of my palm, the same
way I let my mother wear my body
into battle, bring it back ridden
with bullet openings. The same way
a spider that circles a house
knows its bolted windows.
Still, I carry on a voiceless march
they follow into the hollowing web
at least, blindly enough before they
learn to pick up the gun themselves.
Mimi Yang is a student poet currently residing in Shanghai. Her work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and appears or is forthcoming in The Margins, Palette Poetry, and Unlost Journal. When she’s not writing poetry, she’s engaging in angry political polemics and devouring magical realism novels.
Cover Design by Karen Rile