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for Michelle, my Monster Sister

There are many ways that lead to Hades,
the swiftest being to grasp fate by the hilt
and dowse for the Styx beneath the skin—
the ruby river that repels a sea of troubles.
The slowest way is to wait, and wait, and wait,
until we become monsters in shape as well as in soul—
until time, most treacherous and sadistic of sculptors,
hollows our bones and hardens our hearts,
contorts our upright spines into cathartine curves,
replaces our lustrous hair with sparse colubrine wire,
turns our soft, sure fingers into trembling claws,
writes his name in brown Braille across our arms,
sandpapers our voices into pscittacine screeches,
and chisels our faces into eusuchian masks.
What formidable chimeras we’ll be then!
Everything we once feared will fear us.
Just to meet our eyes will be to face a Gorgon;
to hear our cackles will be to feel
hyenas tearing at the hamstring.
We will be crones; we will be hags;
we will be furies; we will be invincible—
until we’re not, and then we’ll slough our skins.
No, I’m not promising that I’ll last this long;
only that I’ll try, and that even if I fail,
I’ll meet you again someday upon a path
flanked with soot-colored flowers,
amidst a cloud of obsidian butterflies,
under a sky that is the wrong color,
and that my arms will be open, because
no matter how many miles or rivers or lifetimes
stretch between us, you’ll always be my sister.

Jungmin Kim has been navigating borderlands since before she was born and has never been allowed to stop.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Cornell University; her thesis examines intersections of race, gender, and property in American literature.  Both her academic and creative writing explore the power of narratives to make, un-make, and re-make barriers and bridges between nations, diaspora communities, family generations, and individual souls.
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