Inside Our Killing
In the end: our dead animal. Mottled fur, and I have sucked you dry. Marrow the bone with which I cleanse my teeth.
For once what wasn’t at my own hands or was it. To be born in a country with open eyes. When a wave that comes to accept the houses, didn’t I already think the sea not far enough? Didn’t I always think our footprints not ajar enough? I should have left more wet my wounds. I mean: I should have loosened my fear.
Take, for example, the hermit crab, I said. I might have remembered the act of losing. Carapace scattered around the beach, I said. The shells are emptied, abandoned; they are waiting for history to declare them whole.
And I licked it clean with both hands. To let my mother inside. Whose betrayal, if it still didn’t count broken enough. Whose betrayal: Someone was blocking the door, and I said Oh, sorry.
If I: just wanted home.
If I: looking at the shadows in the tidepools, waving her over. And behind us, the burning house. If I: didn’t see our god, coming to swallow us whole.
The truth is, it was already loose. We have always been treading water. Always moving in circles, slowness inside my eye. I found my hipbone pressing into the rock without my knowing. A hope turned evil for how desperately one shores.
A shadow comes to our door and I refuse to say who, lest I be wrong again. To be wrong, I called my father. He said fight like a nonchalant sound like a lesson in belonging, and in my heart I knew a leaking body is not a fruit set at my doorstep is not at all but ruptured, disclosed. Emanating.
In Lamentations, the sky is skinned open for the mouth to hole.
I mean: our bodies, let open.
Jennifer S. Cheng is the author of HOUSE A (Omnidawn, 2016), selected by Claudia Rankine as winner of the 1st/2nd Omnidawn Poetry Book Prize, and Invocation: An Essay (New Michigan Press, 2010), an image-text chapbook. She has received fellowships and awards from Kundiman, the U.S. Fulbright program, Bread Loaf, and the Academy of American Poets. Having grown up in Texas, Hong Kong, and Connecticut, she lives now in San Francisco. www.jenniferscheng.com