Back to Issue Thirty-Three

ABC Haibun


I was born in the room where my mother ate her first hamburger, the room
where my father sat at her bedside, licking every crumb off 
her collarbone—where, years later, we hung fish-shaped lanterns 
on the smoke detectors, bellies glowing the shape of bombs, 
the room where the curtains held themselves open like a cut, the room
where my father learned that his body, when stripped, resembled the duck
he strangled & plucked in his youth, where he chain-smoked cigars
to remind himself how to breathe, his palms growing pockets
to hide the ashes, the room where my mother surrendered, face first,
into the bathtub, as if there was something in there to kiss, where
the TV told us that death is frequent as rain, that rain mid-flight burns 
as much as when it lands, the room where I mistook my kneecaps
for the faces of my ancestors and prayed to them every night in the dark. 

& I was born behind the counter of a laundry shop, where all the towels
we washed turned into stones, where the dryers learned how
to screech in Shanghainese, the room where my mother pressed cigarette
burns into all the white men’s suits, despite the shudder of her hands, 
where, when the men came back to beat her, the towels rose
with their butcher knives and scraped the men’s tongues raw, the lucky cat’s 
coin ripping a clean shot through the display window, and me, on my knees
behind the counter, sobbing all my teeth into the open mouth
of the register. 

Plum peeled by bullets: all I asked 
        was for my name / to be sung by wolves.

Helli Fang is the author of the chapbook Village of Knives (Driftwood Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Frontier, Diode, The Margins, Salt Hill, The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, Columbia Journal, Wildness, and more, and has been recognized by Columbia College of Chicago and Bennington College. She has also participated in programs such as the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, The Adroit Mentorship Program, and The Speakeasy Project. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.


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