Kathryn Hargett-HsuPoetry / Number 102
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.
Kathryn Hargett-Hsu 徐凯蒂 is an MFA candidate in poetry at Washington University in St. Louis. Born and raised in Alabama, she is the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets, and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. Most recently, she received the Academy of American Poets Prize and the Lynda Hull Memorial Prize. Find her in Best New Poets, Arts & Letters, Muzzle Magazine, Salt Hill Journal, DIAGRAM, Cherry Tree, TaiwaneseAmerican.org, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere.