Western Movie

by Kristin Chang

                       for the 135th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act

Billboard in town says god
loves me. But god knows

I’m Chinese, my sea an elder
sister’s dress, the one I stole

the sleeves off, the one we dress
our dead in. I crossed too many

seas for this shit.
In this country, I cancel

corners & rebuild all the streets
into circles, into nooses. I saddle boys

& canter them into churches, kneel     
to drink my face out of puddles

& pissholes. In a Western movie
I’d be a saloon girl with a skirt

of sirloin, a dog I feed men to.
In your Western movie I’m

the Chinese with a pan of ash
instead of gold, a river glittering

with laundry to do, a white man’s boots
polished on my tongue. History

is bullshit. In high school, my mother
hired me out to a neighbor’s horse

farm. I scooped poop for minimum
wage & waged a war

with every white horse, their ribboned
manes & braided tails, the way

they pronounced dressage
never like dress age. But I prefer

to imagine an age of dresses, my waist
corseted & high heels bruising

away borders, what I would look like
white & pretty because of it. In a town

twice my size, I’m the only thing
darker than a penny. In a town

where my hips fit like a beer
glass in a boy’s hand, I’m a tall

drink through the chinks
of gold-capped teeth. I’m cavity

sweet. I can ride any draft
animal, draft any boy

into bed. I know coal
burns dirty & I’m filthy

on fire, my hair burning the color
of rivers. My father likes riding

crops best, likes beating
the water out of us. For years

he was foreign & still is. For years
everyone in town liked to ask

where he was from, what accent
I’m named in, why we came here

for gold when there is no gold.
My father, mishearing gold

as god, says it’s not true, there is
a god here to be had. So much

god we could buy out
a country. So much god

to build a kingdom for
& still be kept out.


Poem for an immigrant’s daughter

by Kristin Chang

In this poem, your birth rhymes
             with burial. You are conceived
in a kitchen. Your mother
             wanted you like a knife

needs another to sharpen it.
             Your country is a house you
swallowed the keys to. You want
              a name with every letter in it

silent. There is a name for grief
             to grow into: your plums born
with a stranger’s bites, your sister’s
             age if she lived, your language leaving

you like a flock of birds.
            What your hands can’t do
to the man half you.
            A father you’ll see only

in your son the summer
           he brings you a hammer
when you ask
           for a home. The summer

your father taught you to play
           ball without a ball: squint
at someone else’s
          distant head, then swing it

clean off their shoulders.
         Imagine the blood
your sunset. The true
        American pastime: my father

ate his own appendix in an America
        bound boat. Not because it was
killing him but because hunger
        makes you hole. He stuffed

his missing side with seaweed
        & saltwhite hair. Now if America
ever sends me back, he says
        they’ll never take me         whole.

Kristin Chang is a student in NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Hyphen Magazine, The Rumpus, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her chapbook is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2018, and her poetry has been nominated multiple times for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. She reads for Winter Tangerine and can be located at kristinchang.com and on Twitter @KXinming.