THE THINGS WE BOTH KNOW

i

that a life is remembered only in fragments
that self-hate is chromosomal
that love must be expressed in silence and subterfuge
that you must be willing to give your life for those you bring into the world
but did you know you would do it so soon
did you know

ii

how to dip your fingers into water to measure rice
how to cut your teeth on self-sacrifice so you can’t say hurt
say it was his fault
say you are hurting and it is not your fault
how to make home out of origami roses and boys who are never careful enough
how to carry two shadows
how to be something that wants to stay

iii

although it wasn’t anything like home my father wanted to stay
so you practiced making spaghetti stopped making too-foreign gao zi
tried to fit in with the ghosts looking over your shoulder every day
learned to curl tongue around second language curl
tongue around frozen desire curl tongue
around candle flame against everything the doctors told you
whittled your womb into sanctuary before falling asleep at night

iv

small wonder
every time yee-ma called me selfish she confirmed what i already believed
the first therapist liked to ask where my guilt came from
but i can recognize a rhetorical question when i hear one

v

the first time i dissociated it was the most natural thing
like stepping out of my own skin into
something less me and therefore more comfortable

vi

the first car ride from the hospital every plane ride from hong kong in the trash can at fairview mall on the dresser in yee-ma’s bedroom at the bottoms of teacups on my ribs but only in the morning beside the maple tree in north york cemetery

vii

you will never read these words even though they were meant for you


Jody Chan is a writer, organizer, and vegan-nacho-dip-maker based in Toronto, Canada. She writes about family, intergenerational loss, migration, and mental illness, and she facilitates writing workshops in the LGBTQ community in Toronto. Her poetry is forthcoming in Ricepaper Magazine and the Diasporasian Mythologies digital anthology.