by Naomi Ling
—“I am writing to you from inside a body that used to be yours. Which is to say, I am writing as a son.” On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
—after my mother, 许卓君
Take your crooked palms and place
them on mine; mother, tell me where
this hollow mouth of democracy abandoned you.
If it was the flightless predator, or the
prejudiced Kroger customers, or your
pastor’s lips as he kneeled. To give yourself to
the delicate splendor of your motherland
or to the crashing neon teeth of Times Square.
Practice meditation. Hold your thumbs
a breadth-width apart, child’s pose. Breathe.
I was not born between forgiving thighs;
rather, the dirty silt of the Yellow River as it
washed over your carcass. Leave it all
here with me. Mother, this foreign soil
will upturn your roots and make a
treehouse out of your limbs. Poplar,
spruce, or willow—it does not matter.
America picks and chooses its fights.
Leave your bleeding veins here; pluck
them for me to admire. You must bleed
before you can breathe. At least, that’s
what your mother murmured to you—
twenty wartimes ago, carrying your body with
waterlogged feet to a safer pair of arms.
You were not born facing the throat
of a gun—but show me now a softened
bullet, lodged in your gums for keepsakes.
Naomi Ling is a student writer on the East Coast, USA.