Poetry: Girlish, Too by Stephanie Chang
In “Girlish, too,” the speaker navigates the “white kingdom” of the Midwest which can be overwhelming for folks deemed as “other.”; at the end of the poem, though, they announce their resilience: “There are more things unbroken here /than what they could possibly have you believe.”
I follow home the lunar wire of bone and breath. Thank you, moon.
Thank you, mother, father. Tomorrow a man will squirt my eyes
with plum juice, crack open the earth on my proud forehead.
A rabbit will visit my bedside and hand me the definitive contract
for my future: barista, lawyer, magical girl. I want to feel the closest
thing to want, before the hospital bed resurfaces on every bed
of grass I lie in. I can be a little girlish, too. In this white kingdom
that delivers Capri Sun by IV drip. The wet currency of love
so slimy in my hands. I take a knife to the bathroom mirror,
copper the scales off my backside, coming up with angry
welts of anemone. Coins oiled in the memory of steamed fish.
Then my mother materializing in the backyard, the one we
never had, spider-limbed and screaming for her husband to come
home, can’t he smell the supple meat, stinky tofu, pineapple buns
we pressed between her thighs. The hymen we melted in a hot pot
broth. Tell me the story where I was born vomiting color, paradise
fortuned in every fold in my palms. That night, so terrifying
did I ever tell you about it? The rabbit multiplying by the millions
each time with the wrong face. Tessellation of red paper snowflakes
and sirens. I wanted to forget every garish smile. I never woke up
so fucking alone. Girl who was never supposed to arrive home
in such a ruined body. This Midwest town of miscellaneous cosmic
horrors. Let me cheer you on by the finish line, dress myself in
miracles that don’t qualify as miracles. At least they will do for now
at least for us. Don’t cry. At least we can say there’s still a heartbeat
to the crime scene. The bones of rabbits warped across the end
of the world. The rabbit rolling its head into my lap, rolling into
dough, then a moon of mortar, where my eyelashes grow into lilies
then fields of laughter. There are more things unbroken here
than what they could possibly have you believe.