May Poetry: "Poem to cure my mother's insomnia" by Kristin Chang

May 11, 2018

Image Credit: lillie kate via Flickr

Kristin Chang’s fierce and devastating couplets in “Poem to cure my mother’s insomnia” capture the unflinching determination of the parentified child who desires to uproot her mother’s suffering. Packed with wild synesthesia and unexpected metaphors — “dice the night fine / as gunpowder,” “take tomorrow on / your tongue like a pill” — Chang’s poem sucks us into its hurricane of images and refuses to let us go until we’ve wept with both mother and speaker, who has gifted us with this “lullaby I’ll slit both / our throats to sing.”

— Eugenia Leigh, Poetry Editor

Poem to cure my mother's insomnia

If I sugar your sleep & spoonfeed you
light by the eyeful. If I sew the moon

some eyelids & dice the night fine
as gunpowder. If I bomb your dreams

horizontal, will you wake a war
bride? You take tomorrow on

your tongue like a pill. You wake
without eyes, without a mouth

for mourning. I read the spittle patterns
on your pillow: some are maps & others

seas. Here are some facts to put you
to sleep: the boiling point of the sea

is the temperature your blood turns it.
Your father once crossed the Taiwan

Strait in the mouth of a whale. But no,
you read that in a bible bought

at an airport, woke with god greasing
your face like a frying pan, the sun a boiling

egg. Belief is a meal we can’t afford
to eat. Since your father started

dying, your womb closed itself
like a wound. As if orphaning

is orcharding, your body ripens & drops
limbs like branches. I want to stitch open

my sleep & slip you inside, call this surgery.
I want to sew you into my belly & say

let there be night. I want to rebirth you, my blood
your first blanket. You sleep & I’ll steep

my bones for your tea. Close your eyes & I’ll beat
up the sun like your childhood bully.

As a child, you tugged on my legs
every night, as if that could grow me

a god. Mother, if you sleep now, I’ll cut off
your head & replace it with mine. I’ll wear

all your nightmares like nightgowns
& grow into your grief. Mother, here

is a lullaby I’ll slit both
our throats to sing.



Kristin Chang

Kristin Chang is a student in NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Adroit Journal, The Margins and elsewhere. Her chapbook is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2018, and her poetry has been nominated multiple times for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.