Letter to My Father

WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUANG

to my father:
if I stay perfectly still and breathe
as if too much of what keeps me alive
will kill me
I almost forget the entirety of your face.


it was dusk, a few years ago,
when I had sought out the woods
and captured a grey bird in your honour
and tethered it to the chamber in my heart
meant for you–


I made sure that it was the smallest I could find
but now it has grown almost too big to fit–
its legs, splayed and crooked,
its beak trapped with an incessant warbling–
and my tether is now bound with its veins like a tumour.


the grey bird has the kind of feathers that
seem to float about its body, but never
grow from it – the kind of feathers that
make you want to stick your finger in
and see how far you have to go before you touch skin.


still, its round head fills – almost – fills in

the other atrium of my heart–
so I won’t veer too much to the side when

I am walking–

but I want it gone.


on my pages, it sings for me
its wings coated in melancholic glory,
but I want it gone–
of all my sorrows to grind for ink on my pages

I want this one gone;
my mother’s old wounds I will fall to my knees

to tend to, but yours is a box of knotted hair

that breaks at my touch–
I want the whole box gone.
I want this one
burned, so that when the ashes
fall, I don’t scramble to notice
how the greys sit on lashes, but the way

the cautery hatefully heals the scars into scabs–

scabs that itch, and are then gone.


I want to see you in a definite group of 3,
the kind of family that you can grab by the neck

and feel its warmth pulsating in your palms,

and not the 1 of you and a phantom .5 of me.


you spilled me out into this world–
my surname is Yellow, and
I lead a life shot through with Yellow–

Yellow friends and Yellow dreams
and a Yellow mother–            but you–

you are not Yellow.


to my father:
if I stay perfectly still and breathe
as if too much of what keeps me alive

will kill me–
and it will kill me–

I almost forget the entirety of your face.


if I were to cut the grey bird free
I’ll need a pair of scissors, sharpened
with a whetstone forged from my own selfishness.

(answer me under your breath, quietly,
so that this conversation will cease to exist–)

could you bear it? the pain?
could you survive?

Michelle is a sophomore currently attending Shanghai American School Pudong. She aspires to study creative writing and journalism after high school and enjoys playing the cello in her spare time. Her works generally center around an introspective view of her surroundings and her Chinese family heritage.

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