Origin & Ash
by Tina Chang
from a compact, platters full of peppermints,
a bowl of sour pudding.
A cup of milk before me tastes of melted almonds.
It is the story of the eve of my beginning. Gifts for me:
boxes of poppies, pocket knife,
an elaborate necklace
made of ladybugs.
My skirt rushing north
There is something round and toothless
about my dolls.
They have no faith. Their mouths, young muscle
to cut me down.
Their pupils, miniature bruises.
I hear the cries of horses, long faces famished,
the night the barn burned.
God and ashes everywhere.
Burnt pennies, I loved them, I could not catch them
in their copper rolling.
My mother's cigarette burns amber in a crystal glass.
I am in bed imagining great infernos.
Ashes skimming my deep lake.
The night the animals burned,
I kissed the servant with the salty lips.
There was a spectacular explosion, a sound
that severed the nerves, I was kind
to that shaking. The horses,
the smell of them, like wet leaves, broken skin.
Laughing against a wall,
my hair sweeps the windowsill,
thighs show themselves.
First came my body, my statue's back, then hair electric,
matches falling everywhere.
Tucked in my pink canopy, I am plastic,
worn cheeks grinning.
I found my little ones hiding from me,
crying into their sleeves. They are really
from a breeze, momentarily, white.
When we unburied the dolls, red ants were a fantasy
feeding on them, nest of veins, shrunken salted corpses.
There is mythology planted in my mouth which is like sin.
Keep fires inside yourself.
My mother once said, When you were a baby,
I let you swim in a basin of water
until your lungs stopped. Since then, my eyes were open windows,
the year everything fell into them.
Ashes on my open book.
Ashes in mother's hair. Ashes on my baby brother.
The streets are arid, driven toward fire.
If I hurry, I will dance with my father before the sun sets,
my slippers clicking
on a thin layer of rain.