Kristin Chang

Facts about the orchid (兰)

My grandmother was born in a city called [宜兰]

Despite its name, no orchids grow there

Five of my six aunts have names ending in [兰]

My mother’s full name is [little wind]

Orchid seeds are distributed by land, water, & wind

One of my aunts drowned in a river I invented from rain

One of my aunts thinks skydiving is a synonym for when it rains

the other way

One of my aunts faked her visa & went to the vet once

thinking it was the doctor

she asks me how come dogs here have doctors

I say because dogs here are domesticized

the opposite of domestic is alien the opposite of flower

is fist the opposite of purple is pray

orchid comes from the Greek word meaning [testicle]

Greek women believed eating orchids made their unborn

babies boys

for a son, my mother creamed her toes suckled coals liquefied flies fucked on full moon

days flossed with a dagger darkened her bathwater ashed her cheekbones torched her crotch

candied the blood boiled it with sugar & still

she wept when she saw my face

filmed it with her fingers

weeded out my eyes & witched them into rivers

my grandfather farmed orchids in a city named thirst

when the war came, he pissed on his field

to keep the orchids alive, he spent all his body’s water

his organs dehydrated into stones I skip across seas

flowers bruise in the wind & weaponless

crimes are called births

water perpetrates want

the army unburied our bodies in a field of salty orchids

everyone in my family resembles someone dead

in photos our faces overlap like venn diagrams of grief

there is a breed of orchid called the ghost orchid & another breed called the blood orchid

one is fictional & the other is edible & the other

day I fist a girl & do not think of extinct species

decades later reappearing like the coelacanth

one of the original fish that left the sea for land

all migrations begin as mothers as mimicry

a fish saw a tree & decided to stand

without feet my brother says orchids

look like pussies smell like

pussies too he says I should know

I do know I know the color of thirst

is not salt but cinder but a city fired from the face of its map

her spit is my river is my silver

bullet thirst

is the mouth’s unit of memory memory

begins in me like a bone

to multiply its breaks



Kristin Chang's poetry has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2018, the 2019 Pushcart Prize Anthology, Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, and Ink Knows No Borders.  She is located at and on Twitter @KXinming. Her debut chapbook “Past Lives, Future Bodies” is out on Oct. 31 from Black Lawrence Press.