In my old city, the streets are confused. The birds wait
to be scared. In the silence, the borders grow
another border. A train starts to brown. A baby is born.
Overseas, we do the helpless accounting of new cases
confirmed. Scanning for names of lost lovers
and brothers beloved, praying to our different gods.
In Chinatown, we swim among the families of fish,
imported, flown, the sea and the sky, the same,
acrid among the wash of the teeming streets.
Overnight, cities close in, flights stop midair. The moon
goes dark. The new year holds its breath. The truth
mutates. We cut the strings between us.
But this is a ghost war. We are dying
living apart from each other. In my new city,
feet fly away from our Chinese faces,
Their masks the shape of fear, calling us wild,
calling us unclean, calling us unholy.
Mama, I am in a virus called America
And I don’t want to keep counting. I want to eat
at every grandmother’s empty wooden table
and teach every last child how to sing.
How does a virus sense another warm body?
Is it the feral taste of home, or the gentle waste
of memory, blooming in the defenseless distance?
In the old hospital, the counts only keep counting.
Every sneeze is someone praying: I miss you,
I miss you, calls the diasporic disease.
Alice Liang is a poet born in China and based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published in Sine Theta, Cherry Tree, Where The Questions Live, and elsewhere. She is currently working on her first poetry manuscript, Beforelife.