here we are in the thick of untruth a country is nothing

but a lie all our papers are false must provide a detailed

account of the basis of your claim to asylum o hollow

script o hallowed flesh we must be jinxed curse the day

we arrived how we lost our dialects only for a government

to fix forked tongues onto our mouths we are more shadow

than suspect sinners instead of citizens sinister state says

we should be ashamed for breaking the law for lying low

for lying to keep ourselves invisible and still alive permanently

ineligible for asylum if any false information is provided we were

given grace of governance is this how you show gratitude despondency

is a crime even when disguised as deceit it is impossible to appease

an immigrant’s gluttony we are damned if true but why should we

bother trying for heaven staying here is hard enough




if we could carry a safer syntax if we had sewn

our fathers on the surgeon’s table if we had loved

ourselves enough to leave each other how many times

have we boarded a train without having the right

fare how many gardens did our grandmothers collapse into gun

flower what stories do we tell our children when we raise them

with their birthdays celebrated in secret what promises

can we keep knowing our family trees are gouged out by brine

lumber carcasses cracked open & burnt hollow with shame

where there’s smoke there’s a liar we have no lineage to claim

except paper trails smudged into powder threaded thin by the license

of our own word what if we never bound ourselves to books what if

we held our passports at knifepoint what if we split the spines until

they blossomed what if we had not followed & followed & followed

Laurel Chen is a prison abolitionist and a migrant writer from Taiwan, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area.