my mother calls the day after the shootings, but
between us: a fence of teeth. firewall
of bone. this shared red tongue, coated with
papillae of yellow stars
we’ve knotted into a nest of fragile
domesticity. here, in the frozen umbra
of new news, our tongue
does not know how to contort
to discuss it. instead, it ribbons.
my mother asks: what is this tune?
and then a tinny hum. vibration around
our useless appendage. the melody dark
and angry. I never knew anything
to hold so much blood.
as I listen to my mother’s quivering
voice, I worry my square incisors
with my tongue. when I got my braces
off, this metal cage, my dentist
shaved off two millimeters of enamel,
and when I got home my mother
cried. a week of calcium silence.
mourning what she created and
could no longer protect.
my lips are pursed as I listen,
trying to place her unfamiliar tune and give
the yearning a name. together my mother
and I try the impossible: grasping at something
out of reach, an answer that might
offer relief, satisfy us if only
for an instant.
Angie Kang is a Chinese-American writer and illustrator living in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Believer, The Rumpus, Narrative, The Offing, and others. She enjoys playing online chess, swimming in the ocean, and separating quarters by where they were minted. She can be found online at www.angiekang.net or on Instagram @anqiekanq.