I came back from Japan when the Gold Banner Manchurians were labeled as class enemies.
(In my long days of confinement I didn’t stop writing
about my mother who poisoned herself
the father who hung himself
when I confirmed the safety of my brothers translated Mao’s Quotations into Japanese
I roused with my songs and lice-laden braids
walked myself to the caves with a mandolin
a stack of plates tied with twine
row of books fastened with a belt
secret parcels of brushes bound with laces)
Her face was stroked with meanness and she wished to wrench her daughter irreparably. This way and that she jerked the doll’s dress, stuffing the hem into the menstrual hole.
house took on the moist smell of mattress smell of sagging something like
sickness without decline
alone with my newborn and my in-laws
(My mother has cast me into a land without eavesdropping.)
dry air dry cement asphalt gold light the only liquid
catheter tied to my leg and the doctors and nurses tightly red and white terrors
His scoffing was a kind of wincing that clefted each side of his face beneath the eyes. “You always point out the uncomfortable, and I don’t want to hear it.” She thought she might try to stop pointing out the things that were unfair, cruel, implicating. But she couldn’t find much to say about sunshine and peace, so he eventually left her for someone who could.
her teeth became soft as moss
to show us the shape of her skull
how like the poison to crackling foam
from the sea
She had been much too dependent on talking. She knew she should protect herself from the one who could most hurt her, but she talked all the same. When excited, when happy, she wanted her mother to know about the day, the dream, the good things she had done. The smallest word could slip out from under her, but she walked it all the same, the thin bridge of daughterhood.
Ginger Ko writes from Wyoming. She is the author of Motherlover from Coconut Books, and her chapbook Inherit is forthcoming from Bloof Books.