Ha Kiet Chau

Stillbirth

An embryo’s heartbeat paces
fast like the crescendo of a song,
an upbeat tempo.
In the deep of the night
a crescent moon is bent like an ear
as the heart quiets and listens.

Low murmurs in the secret dark.
You rest your head on my belly
and we spend minutes
whispering about our future,
about the name of our unborn child,
if he’ll have your nose and teeth
or my black hair.

A hiccup in summer gust,
a pause in lilac breeze,
a fetus’s heartbeat slows,
hangs on, and then
stops—
and that song we’ve been listening
to for the last eight months
dies.
July’s heartbreak,
a stillborn’s final breath.

Silence on repeat at noon,
silence on rotation at night.
The silence, turn it off,
play something tranquil for me,
baby, please.
The sound
of a xylophone
is okay.
Melody muffles grief.
We can’t hear each other in the dark,
it’s easier this way.

And you’re crying like a man
who lost his son.

And I’m crying like a woman
who lost her firstborn.

The Hunger Artist

Hollow as a baby pumpkin,
a hole forms in my stomach
after you’re done scooping out
the seeds, slime, and pulp.
I once weighed fullness on a
supermarket scale, it was plump
as a melon, tipping the scale at
six pounds, 2 oz, but that weight
was aborted a week later and
emptiness felt like a glass of
tap water, half full.
In times of welfare and poverty,
you’re carving a grin on the
outer shell of a pumpkin, but
to be honest, it looks like
an upside down frown.
Seven o’clock before dinner,
I am reading about Kafka’s
hunger artist fasting behind bars,
shedding skin and bones,
and when he lost consciousness
in a cage stuffed with skeletal
straws and public scrutiny,
I wonder if he remembered how
it felt to be full again?
You bring me a bowl of rice to
fill my belly, but what about
feeding my growling heart?
I’ve tasted the sweet and the salty,
chewed the solids and drank the
liquids, but nothing edible,
not even two bowls of rice can
lift the unbearable weight of
emptiness from the heart.

Ha Kiet Chau currently teaches art and literature in San Francisco, California. Her poems have been published in many literary journals in the US, UK, and Asia. She also received nominations for Best New Poets (Ploughshares 2011) and Best of the Net (Flutter Poetry Journal 2012). Her chapbook, Woman, Come Undone is forthcoming from Mouthfeel Press in 2013. http://hapoetryblog.tumblr.com/

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