Tina Chang

The Burning

                                    “…I’ve lived without names…”

                                                -Stephen Kuusisto



Off a seashore in Russia I run, laughing

at the mystery of movement in the form

of water, laughing at my father with sand

on his face who will one day die.


Or imagine for a minute a locomotive

full of people, rocking with the motion

of a vintage sorrow, head bowing as if

time has beaten them. In my winter season


I think of monks in Penang who sit without

sound for weeks. How they live inside silence.

The silence is alive. The ringing of a bell

is an intricate acorn; my soul hits the ground


when it falls. The apple for all its perfection

will never change. The seed I swallow fashions

a knot in my throat, the fiber of the peel winds

like a staircase leading me down. I look


at my teeth-marks in fruit, in flesh

like a message, an erotic code deciphered

by tearing and biting down. I want to keep

this braille, this transcript of my soul:


My body is a vessel of wanting.

My body is a vessel of fury.

My body is a vessel of apology.


I am the thread & the damage the thread made after the mending.


I am the god I don’t know & the fire that burns with no fuel.




“The Burning” originally appeared in Shade, Winter 2003, and reprinted in Half-Lit Houses (Four Way Books, 2004).