— after “Meanwhile in America” by Christina Im
They tell me you can do anything, so I unlayer these photographs,
dig enamel into cartridge like any archaeologist.
My grandmother’s grainy smile lifting from resin, warping
into something of a frown. Her lips sewn closed. When she opens
her mouth to piece fruit between her teeth, I look for ways to bore
fossils from her lips. Unravel the stitches keeping her
wounds mute. Gouge away every splinter and sculpt it
into myth like I’ve always been told I can.
They tell me to seek history, so I sink my teeth into the dirt for scraps
of what they might call revelation. Discovery. I call it
exploitation. They tell me that every story is worth telling, pressing
rounded metal against my palm. That there are always fossils
to be excavated. Skin to be lesioned into bruises. There is no shame
in heritage, they say. Yes, there is no shame, I repeat to my grandmother,
begging for any leftovers to turn fable. Her tongue knots, and I have
scavenged every cavity empty, so now I resort to bone. My hands vising
breath into strangulation, and I brush her skeletons unspoiled
and veneer them gleaming white. I have already bleached
them of every last word I might claim heritage or history
or family and sold them smooth. All the jutting edges
sandpapered soft, everything ugly and messy buried.
My grandmother’s life claimed for my own, and I grind it
into powder to be capsuled neat and beautiful
down their throats. How convenient, their maws gaping
with hunger. There is no shame in this, I tell myself as I carve
penitence and gag on my own hypocrisy.
Jennifer Chiu is a writer from Memphis, TN. She has been recognized by Susquehanna University and the National Poetry Quarterly, and her prose and poetry are published or forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Sine Theta Mag, and others. When she’s not writing, she can be found admiring the sky or bullet journaling with one of her twenty-one 0.38mm black pens.