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  • exhibition of my secret tufts of hair



    1.   Pale light strides in.

    2.   A chorus of morning.

    3.   The citrus trees lack their usual winter sag. The earth, sensing our careening, has quietly

          withdrawn her sensitive fruits. She harbors their potentiality of subtle scent and clean


    4.   I dreamt of a caress impossibly—heart swinging spine singing. I awoke cautious of my

          obvious amorality.

    5.   We are learning to hate each other. It is a laborious process with many lapses in which we

          carve love more deeply into each other than ever before.

    6.   How you fear my other private lives—the ones where you have no throne or home.

    7.   Does my father hate Asiatic cheekbones and dark eyes?

    8.   I have never confessed to you the daily applications of milk, lemon, and bleaching cream

           that only ended once I burned my eyes with the fumes. You have confessed to me your

           tentative applications of kohl liner and the cold of the butcher shop they locked you in

           for your curiosity.

    9.   We stay up late to discuss the earth eaters and womb dreamers falling into parallel envies.

    10.  As though we are somehow exempt. 

    9.   When I sleep, my limbs now lay languid.

    8.   Carelessly unfurled.

    7.   Is there a recess in my father’s brain that hates my Asiatic cheekbones and dark eyes?

    6.   You are quaking with growth. While

    5.   the well-concealed lunacies of my ancestors begin to tug at my skin.

    4.   And how difficult it is to adapt to the faulty inside me.

    3.   Emerging.

    2.   Life moves easily.

    1.   Each day leaning casually into the next.

    0.   Nevertheless there is an undercurrent of thud. The soft plod of megafauna.





    How I Learned of Other Galaxies


    first I blurred my memories

    to render the cruelties impossible

    then petalled my flesh

    responding in the only way I know how


    certain bird consonants and hand at small

    of back


    the most innocuous details of life suddenly fissures

    catching on my brain

    the nerveless pain


    it’s a funny linking of bones

    a shifting map of muscles tucked under

    the aging stretch of what we see as selves

    and I laugh at my own body even for all its

    capabilities and I


    only somewhat trapped beneath the vast expanse of blinkering stars


    I listened to flowers and thumbed the throb

    at the base of his throat.

    I noticed how

    one syllable can cause a body to turn away from another body.

    we bite incisors cause real damage through our own


    and it’s accidental, always accidental


    in the silence between us

    light moans

    sky moans

    I stayed silent beneath the ceiling

    spent the night swallowing

    the lush wave

    brimming at

    my throat


    I wanted to release

    the worlds we shelter inside ourselves

    and so

    thumbing the random apertures I encountered

    I stretched too far releasing

    the roar

    of this expanse


    I shredded the notion of universe as our center





    Beyond the Pale and Back



    The palest green tendrils of plants creep

    towards once-glacial waves of the radioactive Pacific.

    Towards this song of all the throatiness of the universe.

    I am not so brave.

    I fold in elbows and knees—keep self contained just as the burrow of mouth falls

    into throat.

    Press against this

    ache of wild pulsing inside.


    How many fractured loves converged to create us?


    I ask my mother and she teaches me how to swaddle knives

    in soft cloth

    teaches me

    how to keep

    those parts of me safely folded away

    even though she knows I will

    eventually be

    interred by the vestiges of my desire.


    When the worst happens, her intonations synchronize with those of the ocean:

    “Whisper close lean in to notice

    what practices of tender of intimate

    have fallen away. Angle into soothe. Into breath.

    The hum of planets in rotation.”


    As she sheathes blade my mother’s worn

    knuckles catch my eye.

    I turn and my grandmother’s schizophrenic

    hallucinations preside down the staircase (men frothing with unchecked desire).


    I must expand in order to accommodate every maddening truth.



    The blunt chemistry of pain. Science catalogues love as an amphetamine rush.


    It is time to sift

    the water of my heart to re-learn that innate poetry.

    My mother slid art beneath skin to harden me—I sat

    through childhood, tracing timid contours of bird shapes bursting out

    of reptiles.


    I grew into antennae leaning furtively towards soft

    gestures and bodies grown languid with sadness.

    Once my skin began to crust over, I worked to be as

    selfless and selfish as we as every other

    exceptional detail contributing to whole.



    Women coax their roiling souls into ill fitting rib cages.

    (concave, convex, flex).

    Daily, we take inventory of the body.

    We sleep under ceilings to hide from the suffocation of blue.


    We soak our hands in excess to

    embalm our hearts.

    We groove on the myth of self-reliance and pay to smooth

    out the furrows of our intestines.


    I am grateful to every human who has evolved to love better than I do

    to those for whom goodbyes are not a final




    How many anybodies lay breathing quietly in the undergrowth?

    Investigating the root of the mosquito

    the mewling of newborns the soft the current of the bone

    marrow, stardust and family secrets resting

    in armpits and bowlegs. Inexperienced gardeners that we are we

    prune away the evolving bits, narrowing growth, narrating

    with such limited



    The necessary dissonance of so many cries:

    victims of empire, killing mothers as trailblazing.

    Still we bow back into our innate desires.

    Bated breath and inefficient loves even as we careen.

    Wanting a balm for the sharp

    heady funk of

    uneasy dreams trailing after us.


    Will we break out of history?

    The Pacific stirs yet I can only hear the murmurings, a cryptic babble running its cold through me.



    The tweak of emergency. Every morning was a gasp. My grandmother’s twitches became the jaw clench of her survivors. Every evening slipped easily into the cradle of memory, sidling next to forgettable meals and the intonations of a television that never rested. I remembered my mother’s lessons and her art betraying her own lessons and would not cry. I did not think of my grandmother’s last words, a frothy stream of painful nonsense. My father attempted to translate her hallucinations and I did not tell him that they followed me already in plastic cups of water, whorls of tree bark, behind certain walls, in the mess of color behind closed eyelids. My grandfather did not drink and did not respond. Dry-eyed, he held his image like a faded photo, while I packed away her objects. I dreamt of her tongue, a cat’s tongue, a lapping of pills, a backlog of fears. The IV drip thickened, glistened into red, into an engorged vein running back into her inert body. I slept with the vague sensation of wires burrowing into me.



    Reach back to

    the thinning bones of crippled labor—style dictates we focus on the teeth

    the white and shine.

    Hold my mother’s memories:

    Forced into DDT showers, the gifts of Spam meat and cruel lessons

    from American GIs, the suffocation of order—fleeing.


    By intuiting pain I grasp for every story as though I can find a home the same shape as my body,

    as though I can live this way.


    Fractured love of man before fatherhood drifting on airplanes stumbling

    into desperate mother.

    They seeded each hope and every hereditary medical condition until I was burrowing through

    unceremoniously cut out (a cyst, a tumor, a growing growth)

    and all of this completely unexceptional, every fractured

    love in every random constellation of human veneer, the face.


    Birthing my moon face—my grandmother’s rejection

    (her calm blue gaze, her clinically-induced rejection).


    I tell my mother (but I never really tell her):


    Maybe one day our loves will

    float as cosmic debris.




    Satellites gaze at the spectacle shattering blue. The intuitive ones veer away, fleeing into a more forgiving expanse. Andromeda oblivious. Stars flicker derisively, immolate themselves as the best of us do. Perhaps their cosmic hearts would soften if they understood unconscious evolution. If they heard the padded sound of our persistent beat.

    Watched us grate away our own tenderness. Felt the pulsing of infinitely many, infinitely small desires eventually settling to

    bleed away into space

                                                                                                 a safer place.     


    I tell my mother:


    I must expand in order to accommodate every maddening truth.




    About The Author

    Zavi Kang Engles

    Zavi is a poet, journalist, and activist currently based in Chicago, Illinois.  She holds a BA in English from Pitzer College and will receive a MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago in June 2017.  She draws upon her identity and life experiences, both of which are marked by constant contradiction, to explore topics including the origins of cruelty, women’s narratives, and the ways in which bodies and their socially-ascribed trappings interact with the outside world. She welcomes correspondence via email: zavi.engles@gmail.com