Closet Space

By K-Ming Chang

I know I’m godless when
my thirst converts water into wasps, my country a carpet
I finger for crumbs. A country
my grandmother breeds
dogs instead of daughters because only one can be called
home. I am trained to lose accents,
to keep a pregnancy
or cancel it out with another man. My tongue is
a twin, one translating
the other’s silence. Here
is my lung’s list of needs: how to hold water
like a woman & not
drown. I want men
to stop writing & become mothers. I promise this
is the last time I call my mother
to hear her voice
beside mine. I want the privilege of a history
to hand back unworn
to grow out of
my mother’s touch like a dress from
childhood. Every time
I flirt with girls, I say
I know my way around a wound. I say let’s bang
open like doors, answer to
god. I unpin from
my skin, leave it to age in my closet & swing
from the dark, a wrecking
ball gown. In the closet
urns of ashes: we cremated my grandfather
on a stovetop, stirred
every nation we tried
to bury him in was a war past calling itself
one. I stay closeted with
him, his scent echoing
in the urn, weeks-old ginger & leeks, leaks
of light where his bones halved
& healed. With small
hands, I puzzled him back together. I hid from
his shadow in closets
his feet like a chicken’s,
jellied bone & meatless. His favorite food was chicken
feet, bones shallow in the meat
When he got dementia,
he flirted with my mother he mouthed for my breasts
like an infant
We poured milk
into his eyeholes until he saw everything
neck-deep in white
the Chinese color
of mourning, bad luck, though the doctor
says everything is
genetics. I lock myself in
the smallest rooms that fit in my mind, my grandfather’s:
a house we hired back from
fire. So I’ll forever
have a mother, I become a daughter who goes by god. I urn
my ghosts, know each by a name
my own.