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I know cleanliness as the knife I hold
slant across my belly, the blade brights
into the tongue that minces my teeth: a row
of mice with bellies that rival mine,
most days I am pregnant with the
river that rings the background
of a horror movie where everyone speaks
Chinese and the sky spoils like the peach
I pit on my thumb, the clench and tang
leaves no residue, none at all, just like the
pigeon that died in your mouth last year.
There is no such thing as being haunted
without hunger, but sometimes
I am sure of it, when I spit
white and my doctor names the infection
after his dog-shaped shadow
and convinces me to slip my face into
his. When he asks me to describe my
density and I drench. When I dream about
plucking a frog from a full mouth and
folding it into a fork. The fork is multipurpose,
predator and lens cap, it promises that all my myths
will collide: the plummy grunts of the
household river, the iron fist I am strapped to,
the canyon that cracked itself open
like a jaw. Innumerable variations of what
I call cleanliness. The light that strokes me
I call dawn. Someone is always hungry,
suckling at the drain at my wrist
until marrow thaws to white
fish flesh, until I loot the spit
in the sky still churning with
ourselves mock-glowing, skewered through
the pump, I name a shivering persimmon
I knifed in the summer, I weaned my baby off
smoke, bellied her in a soft wound with ears, I
drape her in everything that has
always wanted to be full.


final fantasy


The latest trend in my hometown
is to masturbate on the subway
with anything available: a tarp,
a Pepsi can, the Rolex ad
with the ingénue and her mawful of
blood. Don’t worry, that will
never be me, my blood quit my body
long ago when the fire swathed
the river in our backyards, the bankside
salting with leg hairs as the city
recast its lines like a drowning body,
lungs of light paired overhead
as birds raced their ruin. Still they learned
to mock human speech, their vowels
a constant reminder
that we are the kind of beast
that begs its offspring to split from song,
Often I still hear my father’s voice
spiraling from their beaks in
the prehistoric smoke,
a voice that says loneliness is nothing like a river
that there is no such thing as a saturation point,
but still I mistake my mourning for persistent
thirst, offer my tongue as a perch
when my body forgets what it is,
knows only mockery: I scrub an
apple clean as it hums, watch my
ribcage bob in the river mesh,
I quit my ribcage months ago when
my face drifted from me on the subway
like a radiator dream, hummed across bare
knees I touched my lip to one at a time
til the doors opened and my ghost unraveled
from every knee and called herself
a sex symbol for the ages, an edible
kind of brightness that roosts
with every smoked bird. Everyone
who knows my ghost learns to wear
my lip in the dark, will swim to their
bones to cop a final feel, bones that
fray into fire and whisper for us
to punch our clocks hourly
and feed their hands to anything that flies,
one day there will be no such thing as a final
gesture and the birds will learn to service us,
song the subway with our own voices



Outside Walmart’s


I bed a light that’s learned
to grope me like a hand,

milk the wing in my throat and palm
the glow in one hand, heft it like a plum,

pretend to dream about drowning the sea
in something bigger than itself, pretend

to love the next bird that can slot itself
into a face. When the universe

began only the domesticized knew time, only
the livestock could recognize themselves under

parking lot light, the first light in the world
was a sext: you can only be touched once

and the sky responded by shutting itself
like a curtain and spitting trained possums to

to touch the girl where she touched herself,
the submergence of hands
I call prayer, suddenly all water
was more than water,

her blood more than blood. Suddenly every
engine grew a beard, the sea flooded back

to its mouth. The possums, always hungry, sprouted
second stomachs called wings, the metal yawned

Everywhere, tongues spattered to grass and
the girl read the news. The girl’s body is more

than body, she dismantles a streetlight
outside of a Walmart while strangling

a crow between her thighs, remembers the
hand that disrobed there once,

a man once told me that the quickest way
to kill was through the wrist, a flick like a

kiss, the girl knows it’s more than that,
aftertastes spit that beads her teeth like blood.





Kristin Chang has previously lived in Shanghai and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in BOAAT Journal, Pouch Magazine, Winter Tangerine Review, and elsewhere.