Madame Butterfly

That summer you compared my breasts
to dumplings I learned how to butcher

a horse. How to birth a blade
and call it marriage, how to be

something in the mouth, like a peach.
Your OkCupid profile says you

want an asian girl, a wife-like lip
and long hair in a braid, you say you know

how I want it, you’ve memorized a scene
you saw in a movie once, a pair of knees

like moons and a dragonfly mask, the point is to
be beautiful the way something easily

crushed is beautiful. You want me clean
as a bone, you want a skin to shine

a skin to rhyme with a ghost you
spat from your boot heel, you want a

kind of pain only a man who has never
known pain can pray for. My braid is a flute and my

blood in a soup bowl is my wife, is the sky, is when the
sky saw us through a window and lost face,

your favorite condom brand is Japanese, Kimono
XXX, my skin worn on your fist.

What body cannot be collapsed like a paper
parasol, what body cannot be loaded like a paper

pistol, my face powdered and yours cocked,
I sink into this body I called my own

by mistake. Redness surfacing on my upper lip
like a body midriver. The sky asks permission to occupy

me and it doesn’t care what comes next.
The clouds snagging on these hands

you said made your own look so big. That
summer I dreamed of a Chinese woman who

drowned in my backyard river, who saddled my
mouth with hers and bridled every bankside body

sunning clam-pink. The reins in her mouth
like a tongue. We tucked the water under our chins

and I told her I could learn to occupy any kind of meat,
to prove it I flashed her my horse thigh and her

muzzle bobbed like a fleet, she stitched a steak
to my left ear and called it mothering instinct.

That summer I fell asleep twice in the birdbath,
a dragonfruit strangled between my thighs, pulp

storming my tongue like a visiting army. I
emptied each warhorse into my mouth, licked

the bullet that recalls the belly, wore
the belly as a costume. How the body

unlearns itself: unspooling into smoke
against my palms, I watch

the bullets that stack all along your breath,
blasting new holes
nothing like moons
into this skin, this violence we’ve learned to call song.

—By Kristin Chang