To make beautiful: fire & steel, water to cleanse,
kiss the underbelly of a knife like a heifer.
I remember looking into a bowl of ivory
once. Carved into the once-bone is the silhouette
of an animal made deathless for a house
more beautiful. My mother is the house who vomited herself
dry to look more beautiful. She is as solvent
as washing powder. Aside, loving nurses made of linen
arrange me in a bouquet. In this fantasy,
I break night & unyoke time
at birth. I admit, this woman is not
my mother. I was not born into beauty. I was not the child
who was winked at or asked to pass the salt.
The first time I wore makeup was in America.
I had to learn the hard way cheap eye black dissolves
into grease. I wish I was worth a song, Delilah,
Cecelia, Jude, they all have it. My name makes you
hiss & twist your lips & whisper a prayer
for your own name. I was three short syllables
short of an English name. I welded, knitted, glued
the knots & I keep tying,
stretched my skin into a trampoline I keep tying,
re-edited the sounds my laugh makes, I keep abundant
water and fibre I have been trying.
I am closer to the shape of an ivory, my accent
is better American-ed & my pockets are not empty.
Golden is the day I went & got a tattoo. My inner thigh?
Pale like maggots. In that winter sun, I held on
to my name, my child would inherit it. Listen,
she was born in a shed by my grandmother’s hands.
In the dream, my grandmother is without cancer,
without the burden of man. She boils her favourite
pair of fabric scissors to cut the umbilical cord,
hands me black coffee. I spill on the placenta.
Those were the colonial years, now
pow-pow! is the sound of my dead child’s name,
and she has a hole in the forehead the size of a name.
This morning, I went to empty the cartridges,
someone saw me through the window,
saw my cellulose-packed thighs move
with the ease of a swan. See, that velvet creature.
See, the words have always just been a mirror.
& I was never less beautiful.
Tan Tzy Jiun is a poet, graduate student, and boggle enthusiast living in Vienna, Austria. She has been previously published in nether Quarterly, Fleas on the Dog, and Postscript Magazine. She is also the co-creative director of Exit 11 Performing Arts Company.