Jody Chan is a writer and organizer based in Tkaronto/Toronto. They are the poetry editor for Hematopoeisis, a 2017 VONA alum, a member of the Winter Tangerine Workshops Team, and the 2018 winner of the Third Coast Poetry Contest, selected by Sarah Kay. Their first chapbook is published with Damaged Goods Press. Their work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is published in BOAAT, Looseleaf Magazine, Nat. Brut, The Shade Journal, and elsewhere.
餓鬼 // hungry ghost
my mother’s 鬼 wears a corsage of chicken feet
to her funeral, tells us to feast. we do
until it hurts, a cold harvest of skin
simmered from bone. meat is bad
for the memory. no one wants to name the body
that fills them. no one wants to bury
the corpse they came from. my mother’s
鬼 is a petulant country. she starves her son
when she wants to teach him a lesson, calls it love.
he bolts his bedroom shut to 餓 & my dad,
who delivers dinner to the door.
unwilling to be forgotten, the 鬼
forks an obedient daughter to her mouth & spits
out a mirror. in the name of family, I pulp & remake
myself in her reflection, retch the last
craving from my throat. when dad remarries
I call my stepmom Auntie, shush my inner 餓.
the legend goes, every 餓鬼 was a woman
who refused to be eaten. Auntie
conjures pineapple buns before & egg tarts
after school. on Saturday mornings she ladles pancake batter
into my mom’s skillet, calls it love.
Auntie isn’t wrong but 鬼 puckers
her lips to say greedy, desperate, swallows me
back. there is daughter & there is tribute, I can’t
tell the difference. conceding, I tattoo 鬼’s
favourite flowers on my thigh, hide
the ink under long pants when I visit dad.
鬼 longs for an animal appetite, one she can sate
with green onion pancakes & enough love
for a daughter. my stomach covets
a mother to stuff its 餓 with eggs & tomatoes,
watercress soup, fish fragrant with soy steam & ginger
but 鬼 hunts any fullness in me
that she cannot have. mother’s tricks
for easier digestion: wilt slices of orange
in the microwave, pluck the cheeks from fish
skulls. she tells me to save 鬼 my tenderest
parts. 餓鬼, I memorial my body. my heart
fasts overtime for you. who more do you want.
let me hold your next daughter, 餓鬼 begs.
let me give her my name.
a white man yells at me at the traffic light because
I’m on my morning run & needed the red to breathe
& because I can’t jaywalk into a rush hour intersection
I can’t escape not even from my body he hungers
for my legs to move for him he wants to call me
baby he jabs his groin’s sweaty talon at me
I unbrick every word from the walls of my brain
stitch my mind a kinder pocket to hide in
every catcall has the same etymology I wear him
in my history with all the others who salivate
the sidewalk everywhere I go the park the store
the pharmacy men stalk the city in flesh
like worms after the rain wriggling & bonepale
it’s predictable really how their leers hang heavy
on my ankles but when I grope inside my chest I find anger
out of reach so I let these feet ferry me home
to my best friend her homemade peach pie with a killer
crust an anxious black cat & a bookshelf stuffed on survival
again we turn on the fan until my breath relocates me
through all this humidity our evaporated sweat
tangles in the air like our lives the last two years
daily I thrust my heart towards her like a plate
I fill & feast on & ask her to fill again