Tina Chang


On an island, an open road

where an animal has been crushed

by something larger than itself.


It is mangled by four o’clock light, soul

sour-sweet, intestines flattened and raked

by the sun, eyes still watchful, savage.


This landscape of Taiwan looks like a body

black and blue. On its coastline mussels have cracked

their faces on rocks, clouds are collapsing


onto tiny houses. And just now a monsoon has begun.

It reminds me of a story my father told me:

He once made the earth not in seven days


but in one. His steely joints wielded lava and water

and mercy in great ionic perfection.

He began the world, hammering the length


of trees, trees like a war of families,

trees which fumbled for grand gesture.

The world began in an explosion of fever and rain.


He said, Your body came out floating.

I was born in the middle of monsoon season,

palm trees tearing the tin roofs.


Now as I wander to the center of the island

no one will speak to me. My dialect left somewhere

in his pocket, in a nursery book,


a language of childsplay. Everything unfurls

in pictures: soil is washed from the soles of feet, a woman

runs toward her weeping son, chicken bones float


in a pot full of dirty water.

I return to the animal on the road.

When I stoop to look at it


it smells of trash, rotting vegetation,

the pitiful tongue. Its claws are curled tight

to its heart; eyes open eyes open.


When the world began

in the small factory of my father’s imagination

he never spoke of this gnarled concoction


of bone and blood that is nothing like wonder

but just the opposite, something

simply ravaged. He too would die soon after


the making of the world. I would go on

waking, sexing, mimicking enemies.

I would go on coaxed by gravity and hard science.




“Invention” originally appeared in Callaloo, Summer 1997, Vol. 20, No. 3, and in Half-Lit Houses (Four Way Books, 2004).