Your jaw is a beam of rotting wood/ It is where sadness starts
The mouth carries apple-cradled jewels/ & a heat-dipped horizon,
First Child clipping crimson out of the sky/ So the birds miss their own singing
The boy on the corner is pretzel-throated/ Shows you alcohol under a microscope
While First Child carries jade circle death in her pocket/ Weaves ribbon into soft lungs
Someone painted whiteout on your eye/ & it quieted you
Locked, an eggshell jaw/ Where screams start
So you’re born in the capital of the world/ &they’ll never let you escape.
Action/reaction. Remember: every time you talk about your mother, do it/
with your eyes closed. Remember: Your name is a seed that/ your body
grew from. Remember: the one time you loved, sunburst dust embedded/
your fingertip &one day there won’t be a radio song/ to cry over.
Everything is want. There is no need/ to need. A hypocrisy: you believe in
no gods/ but you think they can be created. A contradiction: there is only
one god/ &all of them are you.
The Ballad of Lily Magnolia
after Hua Mulan
My ancestors are buried in our backyard & my mother says it is comforting
to have them all in one place/ but it is more of a burden to me. I am a girl
with bones made for war, but my mother dreams/ only of a horizon-future.
She, too, has nails of steel/ & a skeleton wrought of iron. For us honor is
quiet. Is obey. Is/ thank you. Women eat their own tongues every/ day.
We are left with full stomachs, empty/ mouths. Smoke rises from China’s
mountains,/ black like oil and dragon and want. It is a warning/ clanging
steel and red snow on the ground. My grandmother told me, Flower/ this
world will kill you unless you are/ ruthless. She said your ancestors/ are
woven in your clothes. She said you are never alone/ even when you are
someone else. I do not look too hard at my father/ he does not look too
hard at me. His old armor fits. This is/ his approval. Lily magnolia, the
earth/ screams. Flower. Their graves say/ keep close to us. This/ is your world
Nancy Huang grew up in America and China. Her writing has been recognized by MSU’s Young
Playwrights Festival, Letters About Literature, the Library of Congress, Optimist International, Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the National YoungArts Foundation, and the United Nations. Recently, she was nominated for a Roy Crane Award in Literary Fiction, and was a runner-up for the James F. Parker Award in Creative Writing. Currently, she resides in Austin.