ABC Haibun

Gas Station, Oscar Zenteno

I was born in the room where my mother ate her first hamburger, the room

where my father sat at her bedside, licking every crumb off 

her collarbone—where, years later, we hung fish-shaped lanterns 

on the smoke detectors, bellies glowing the shape of bombs, 

the room where the curtains held themselves open like a cut, the room

where my father learned that his body, when stripped, resembled the duck

he strangled & plucked in his youth, where he chain-smoked cigars

to remind himself how to breathe, his palms growing pockets

to hide the ashes, the room where my mother surrendered, face first,

into the bathtub, as if there was something in there to kiss, where

the TV told us that death is frequent as rain, that rain mid-flight burns 

as much as when it lands, the room where I mistook my kneecaps

for the faces of my ancestors and prayed to them every night in the dark. 

& I was born behind the counter of a laundry shop, where all the towels

we washed turned into stones, where the dryers learned how

to screech in Shanghainese, the room where my mother pressed cigarette

burns into all the white men’s suits, despite the shudder of her hands, 

where, when the men came back to beat her, the towels rose

with their butcher knives and scraped the men’s tongues raw, the lucky cat’s 

coin ripping a clean shot through the display window, and me, on my knees

behind the counter, sobbing all my teeth into the open mouth

of the register. 

Plum peeled by bullets: all I asked 

        was for my name / to be sung by wolves.

About the Author

Helli Fang · Bard College

Helli Fang is the author of the chapbook Village of Knives (Driftwood Press, 2020). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode, The Margins, Salt Hill, The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, Columbia Journal, Blueshift Journal, Wildness, and more, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Columbia College of Chicago, and Bennington College. She has also participated in programs such as the Bucknell Seminar, Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, The Adroit Mentorship Program, and The Speakeasy Project. When Helli is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin and climbing trees.

About the Artist

Oscar Zenteno · Christian Brothers University

“Gas Station” first appeared in Castings.

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