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By Natalie Linh Bolderston

My great-grandmother and her son in Xiamen, circa 1931.


The photographer tells you / Sit straight / Legs crossed / Careful, show your feet / Seeso small / small enough to be beautiful


You look past him / Through the window / the pink sky wears your stretch marks / You remember / how your husband praised you / for birthing a boy / How you tore / bedsheets with your teeth / screamed for needles / dong quai / green tea / anything to quiet the pain


Someone took your son / from your breast / while you slept / his body / still nameless and kissless


It has been three days / since you touched his skin / You have stopped your blood / with linen rags / beneath your silk samfu / You have re-bound your feet / plucked your forehead bare / Now he is on your knee / and no one is lifting him away / You notice / someone has shaved the sides of his head


You discover / the name his father gave him means / pure water / a name he can use to cross seas / cleanse bad luck / from his blood


You kiss your boy / stain a prayer on his cheek / point his face toward the snap-flicker of the camera


those three seconds / of bullet-bright light

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