The American one came first. Still in the womband my parents chose softness, simplicity, my name
a fallen-swoop match for assimilation. Monthslater, they picked a Chinese one. Unannounced, saved
for family. I was perfect before I was born.Before I was born, I was buried. Rolled in the caul,
my heels a mudslide, my ribcage a series of regrets.Reasons: why they wanted to leave and why
they didn't. Why they couldn’t go and why they did.Woman hunched over the crawl of spider-leg ink,
man thin in a dark corridor, and it’s betterhere. My old hometowns aren’t safe. Ma couldn’t
sleep when she visited, not until she returnedto the safety of an American name, her first home
falling back to memory, slanted and urine-stained.My second name like noise, like knives. Like things
to forget. What we lost and now remember. Ididn’t care until I knew. I wasn’t lonely
until I wanted. Teach me to remember the rollof my tongue, a lilt you hear but cannot see. A slice
you cannot erase. Teach me to feel this nameborn from love, heal a secret meant to be carried.
In this tongue I can speak: Liu kai ling, victory songmarching through my mouth. We are here and safe.