Poetry: Village of Knives by Helli Fang
The speaker of “Village of Knives” is an Atlas of her own life—menace and threat and the persistence of being a woman who survives. Helli Fang’s work leaves the reader in a different posture, a leaning, a dark looking over a new cliff with only sea and drowning far below.
Village of Knives
I say go back to where you came from.
In Hangzhou, where you washed your face
in a storm drain, your body pressed to the road
like a scab. Where you lit your father’s
cigarette by running into a burning building.
Your father’s fingers around your throat,
kneading a pulse back into you. Where
you once watched a girl steal a jackfruit
by clenching it between her thighs. Where
you tried to do the same, and walked home
with blood filling your shoes. I say
swallow what you can’t keep. So when
your uncle tells you that red is the color
of China, show him your hands, how
you sharpened a sword on them
every morning before walking out the door.
& when your mother praises you
for eating every grain of rice, tell her
how you swallowed your fingernails
trying to stab the ghosts inside
of you. I say the ocean is the only thing
that knows how to forget. & so I spill over
every shopping cart full of mooncakes,
peel the mothers from their dragon-print
dresses, wring the piss out of every child
squatting in their backyard, & hurl it all off
the interstate bridge
to learn the sound of drowning.
Helli Fang is the author of the chapbook Village of Knives (Driftwood Press). An undergraduate student at Bard College, her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode, The Margins, Salt Hill, The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, Columbia Journal, Blueshift Journal, Wildness, and more, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Columbia College of Chicago, and Bennington College. She has also participated in programs such as the Bucknell Seminar, Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, The Adroit Mentorship Program, and The Speakeasy Project. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.