In the churchyard, my father builds

a birdhouse of plywood

stolen from construction sites.


As a roofer, it’s his job to ribcage

the rain. The summer

our marshland became a mall,


my father hammers a nail

through my thumb, says

I shouldn’t suck anything


anymore. It is common belief

we bleed for a reason, but god knows

my father. Every nesting season


we paint toothpicks into gold perches,

collect hair from our drains

for nest lining. In spring, the birds


clot our sky, lay bruise-colored

eggs I name for my knees.

In spring, my father is fired & goes back


to church, teaches my brother to re-fence

the backyard. When my brother breaks

a board, my father breaks another


beating him. All my bones grow tree

rings. My mouth grows in

godless. I kneel in the dirt, dig for worms


to feed the mother birds.

But my father says

they’ll never learn to hunt


that way, stomps a hole

to rebury each one. In the backyard

he buries a shoebox of expired


visas, every day he’s overstayed

his own name. My father

wakes early for work, his eyes


loaned to light. He says birds

are the only species that don’t pay

for flight. At the end of the season,


we count the miscarriages: baby birds

poured too soon from their eggs,

beakless & blood. Brains missing


their baskets. My father cradles

his fist like an eggshell

broken before the bird inside


is body. Each shard

of shell roofing my mouth, each

egg I glued back into its mother,


everything broken

hatched from its healing.

Disordered eating


“I’ve grown lean from eating only the past.” – Jenny Xie



The first year of famine, my grandmother

parts her legs with a fork, fingers

my father out early, his waist a wrist


width. The second year of famine

my grandmother eats one apple, red

as her rape. Blood how the body


badmouths its bullet. To eat itself, the field grows

crows. In lieu of fruit, my grandmother

juices her eyes. A bride wears a ring


of gangrene, dowries herself

to a dagger. Five decades away,

hunger clasps me like a necklace.


I climb my stomach’s sill, open

my mouth a window-square of light.

I wear my waist like a water


line, fat fisting my hips

like pistols. At meals, I eat photo

frames, green cards, everything


expired. Uncuff me from bone, from home

provinces with more mouths than people

to pray out of. I’d rather be forgiven than fed,


eaten than entered. When my mother says

no man will marry me with a belly

this brute, I gag myself


with a flag of my father’s

face. I puncture my thigh a line

of flute-holes, swear off carbs


& teethe ice for two weeks, orange

seeds for three. I eat the leanest cuts

of history: when my grandmother


boils her tailbone for soup, when

a fever needles away her teeth.

When the soldier piggybacks her


with a corpse & tucks her teeth

first into the river, she is light enough

to float home. Today I’ll weigh myself


against want, against water: I fill

a bathtub with saltwater

& splay myself on the surface, my hair


slack-reined, my breath pinned

back. I sew into my belly

the heaviest things: sons, letter


openers, suitcases of heirloom

hammers. I promise my bones this is better

than burial. When I tell my grandmother


I’m not hungry, she asks if I’m out

of teeth, if I’m dying

or vegan or want to be


beaten. I thieve into thinness,

steal a picture of her

young & orphaned & three years


from fullness. If the sea is salt’s

church & my belly

a buoy’s deity, if my prayers


pocket stones, I sink every mouth

with a name I disowned. I eat

my body to become its home.

Kristin Chang lives in NY and reads for Winter Tangerine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, wildness, The Rumpus, The Margins, and elsewhere.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize. Her debut chapbook “Past Lives, Future Bodies” is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (October 2018).