When We Used Our Hands by CJ Hallman
On the edge of a river that winds like the watch I wish you’d wind
so I could exist in some sense of time relative at least to your wrist
men fish for eels and collect them in plastic bags
and willows like wigs of hair harvested from the fertile heads of village girls
There is no one here except people to clean up the mess no one is making
and people to guard the people who aren’t here from the other people
who aren’t here
committing crimes uncommitted
because we were never.
I’d learn to play piano so that my fingers would grow strong like willow trees
I’d change my name so that you would call me familiar
I’d write a thousand words so you would read one: you.
I’m not water; I’m a fiery mess
I stood on the raft, but my toes slid through the bamboo.
I am no one; just a bald girl from a riverside village; I am no one.
Even last year when I couldn’t see
I found your face through
in daylight, in sunset
I said goodbye to all my friends
and we walked until our feet wore down
like sanding wood
and then we had stumps and I, no friends
because I left them before my feet
and this year, I can see
I want to wear silk, my own reflection
but you prefer a cotton vision
softer, practical; practically soft and serene
I have no hair
because I sold it to be with you.
My torso is a factory and my mouth sobs smog
I remember a river
and you, a foreigner in my world, slipping like a ghost; white and unclear
and we went to the city
I after you
I always after you.
A child chasing a kite; legs chasing the boat that returned you to an
island of rapists
now my hair is growing back and the lights no longer bleed color into the sky
and my belly is growing full
like the moon I cannot see
in this city
where the ghost saw through me
And I am no one
CJ Hallman used to live in China. Now she lives in Austin, TX. Her work has appeared in Dogmatika,Identity Theory, and Defenestration.