diaspora babies

diaspora babies, we

are born of pregnant pauses/spilled

from unwanted wombs/squalling invisible-ink poems/written in the margins

of a map of a place

called No Homeland


old gong gong honoured uncle is the man i won't become/

BBQ pork-scented sorrow and red

bean paste buns he sold on street corners in Chinatown/handing out sweetbread

and stories

for seventy-five cents each/ red meat and red hands stained

by the winter wind’s violence/as the Goddess of Mercy watched/pitying

from her curbside altar


diaspora bodies, we

wrap lips around pregnant pauses/spill

salt fluids from unwanted bodies/squalling invisible-ink poetry/written in the


of a map of a place

called No Homeland

my boy makes me breakfast the morning after/he's the air i breathe/love-

flavoured oxygen/i taste him everywhere/sun-dried orange peel candy/like the kind

my father used to bring on car trips/the colour of his skin/brown

salty-sweet/we gorge ourselves on love

not thinking about tomorrow/there's never enough

time/to make you full/never enough flesh

to fill your skin/we open our mouths for stories/for sun-tinted histories

and swallow each other whole/here in this place

with no room for mercy

diaspora secrets, we

enclose in pregnant pauses/write on the walls

of unwanted wombs/invisible-ink poems in the margins

of bodies/living out a map of a place

called No Homeland


red's the color of my mother's scars/as though the Goddess of Mercy

went finger-painting across my mother's face/a mask

made of Things We Don't Talk About

there some stories that are never told/but known

nonetheless we bake them into bread/fill buns with secrets

like sweet lotus paste/ “what can't be cured must be endured”/

“chinese families

don't talk about our feeling” / “we wash them down

with pork”/ “do as you are told, child”/ “eat what's in your bowl”

swallow it/bitter or sweet

some violence, we

keep inside our bodies/scar tissue / “what love?

the kind they show in gwai lo films?

chinese women don't speak

of love”/ “we know

that people will laugh at us”

some bodies can't be touched/some poems

cannot be written/just felt


diaspora haunted, we

hunt for pregnant pauses/give birth

from unwanted yellow wombs/bodies

like invisible-ink poems/ghost children drawing maps in the margins/

of a place called No Homeland


Bibliographical info

Kai Cheng Thom, "diaspora babies" from A PLACE CALLED NO HOMELAND. Copyright © 2017 by Kai Cheng Thom. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: A PLACE CALLED NO HOMELAND (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017)


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