Immigrant Daughter Learns English (an abecedarian) by Sharon Zhang

—After Jessica Kim

At the very least, you still have your own
Backbone, splintered over every other
Cremated body beneath you. Today, another
Dream you’ve borrowed, a dialect from an
Earth you don’t own scraped under your dirty
Fingernails. You’re noticing that now, around here,
Girls keep losing their names inside their own bodies.
How their skin learns to smoke themselves,
Idolize something so formless that they can
Kneel before a country, another stamped bullet-wound.
Learn yourself into submission, your own name now
Melting down like a wax candle; everywhere →
Not anymore. It’s best to remember: you’re
Owned by the same words you shoplifted from
Poached languages, collapsed throat
Quivering over picture books you never
Read. Tomorrow, your mother kneads your
Shoulders raw, tells you how English simply came
To her. How it came to her, stillborn and
Unwavering, and how she had to crumple it into a
Voice. It’s just that you haven’t mastered
Whiteness, this melted love, these syllables like
X’s on the roof of your mouth. This country of
Yours recites the Lord’s Prayer over your wrists, more
Zip-ties, more thank yous.


Sharon Zhang is an Asian-Australian, Melbourne-based poet and author. Her work has been recognized by Paper Crane Journal, Antithesis Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a mentee at Ellipsis Writing and an editor at Polyphony Lit. Outside of writing, she enjoys collecting CDs, scrolling endlessly on her phone, and thinking about Deleuze a touch more than that which is necessary. She is the poet laureate of pretentiousness and using the word “body” when any other noun would work instead. Skin. Limbs. Humanness. Tablecloth.

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