Internal Dissident

Kathryn Hargett-Hsu | Poetry

I was born with a cudgel & a mole on my cheek.
When the fog told my mother her name
was dead, I crushed the fog with my milk teeth.
I knew the blister of annihilation

before I scraped soot from my gums.
I was born so I belly-crawl. I was born to refuse
to be the proliferation of another’s erasure.
To be unmeasurable is to be anti-imperial.

To slither. To refuse the debt
they made of your blood. It was a state tactic
to burn Hsu from my birth certificate,
they said they’d scorch that yellow undergrowth

for a new forest to drum. But I know
I was born with wild pigs fleeing brushfire
& provinces obliterated in air raids,
that from the commas of immigrant desire

I tore into feral territory. I’m a beastly child.
My mother gave me a heart that beats me
through finite revolutions of moons.
She birthed me into a verb, an action to perform.

Hsu Gai-ti. Remove the radical & my name is ember.
Xu Kai-di. Change the tone & I am the sound of flaying.

I was born with this fire & I was born
to cut it out of my own throat.