Lost in Translation (Hunger)

ink is flooding everywhere from head to chest.
I lie quiet in these ship hands. stomach clawing
like goosebumps ready to tear open. maybe this is
a good thing, like the flock’s seasonal migration south
from winter-starved land, like the castaway’s lone will
to outlive a body. to feel hunger is to survive, to take all
we can to our mouths, until the cracks in our organs are
filled shut, ripping wider into an empty shadow. all the
stranded are filling their bellies with seawater to grow
thirstier, too much hunger and we starve ourselves in search
of more. two million years ago, a human built the first ship
to set foot beyond the horizon and dove headfirst into the distant sun.
two million years later, a couple rip through an entire sky’s
worth of feathers to crash into new land, hence me.

***

if you peek inside my cracked veins, you’ll see
an entire desert stretching across endlessly. I spent a lifetime
trying to bury the footsteps of family, scraping
my tongue clean of its rough accent, characters fluttering
in the air like torn flags. I cannot be trusted with a language.
I build a house from the words I’m left, and I burn it down the next day
shoveling charred names into the seasonal fire.

***

every migration ends where it began. the branching river
winding into itself endlessly. an entire generation of hunger
inherited. sometimes I would sit inside this body for days,
holding two languages in both hands like stones
and attempt to start a fire, only to chip away at
both cracked into shards. when I was seven,
a boy pushed me to the ground for my accent.
I wondered if this is what broken english looks like,
a mountainous tongue too rough for the wind,
a chipped tooth, a puzzle shard that fits nowhere.
to have a mother tongue is to be born for a language,
to be raised from a language, to be wanted by a language,
which is to say I have yet to find mine. but I promise,
if I ever find the shard, I’ll hold it close as a diamond,
as blood, until I wake up one day, the shard fully pressed into me.

***

I spent the entire day trying to dig up my past,
beneath hills of glinting sand shed from the night sky,
sinking my foot into old footsteps to retrace a way back.
two names, I’m stretching one into a longbow to shoot down
the stars and weave into a sail. the other I’ll mold into a horse to carry
me beyond the horizon, swirling mane caught in moonlight.
there is no alphabet in chinese, each overhanging character
a distant star. but fragment by fragment I’m connecting them
into a bridge leading to the ocean, to home.

***

I want a poem that sprouts wings from history, perched on backyard fences singing the same melody hummed by subterranean veins, a poem to release to the skies, a poem that rings from everywhere.

I want a poem for the revolutions, all the revolutions: of broken tongues and teeth, of fossilized footsteps, of night skies seeping into blood.

I want a poem from food menu items, a poem that simmers in mouths, dragon breath steaming through the cracks of teeth: lion head, eight treasures rice, buddha leaps wall.

I want a poem that splits the earth into arms flooding across seas, a poem to give my body to, a poem to stitch stomach wounds, but also to pry open, a poem that floods everywhere,
a poem that never ends until this body, no period but the period in the iris of eyes.

I write for hunger. I write from hunger. I write for a history forgotten and a history to be written. I write to reconcile two tongues, two names, hoping one day I can finally claim both as my own, the double helix stretched into one.

Spencer Chang is a writer from Taipei, Taiwan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, Rabbit, Blue Marble Review, The Daphne Review, and elsewhere.

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1 Response to Lost in Translation (Hunger)

  1. abykittiwakewrites says:

    Beautiful

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