cli..." /> POEMS by KUO ZHANG - Mutha Magazine


Published on February 11th, 2019 | by Kuo Zhang




I have known the secret joy of pregnancy,

clip-clop of heartbeats in duet, high-fives across the belly,

a mini-stove in winter, a hug lasting 24/7,

a grey table, a white pillow, ice-cold ultrasound gel,

the most common androgynous creature detected.

A perfect patient, a happy hospital,

an additional free bread from the Korean baker in H-mart.

And I’ve seen the checklist of inappropriate mothers-to-be——

Too young, too old, too queer, too many children already,

Single, selfish, still in school (x), no stable job (x),

speaking imperfect English or no English at all (x),

an alien attempting to parent a U.S. citizen (x).




Bulldogs are non-native to Georgia.


The house is non-native to the land,

where bushes of Japanese knotweed grow

and European rabbits run.


Sunshine is non-native, forever, to earth.


Rice is non-native to rice cookers.


A wife is non-native to her husband,

who is native only to his mother.


Smartphones are non-native to fingers,

which are native to a beloved’s face

on the screen.


I am non-native to English, just like

I am non-native to childbirth,

but I say “Oh, my God!!!”


when they tell me “Push!”


After Delivery

In the wheelchair,

I hold a newborn

accepting applause

and “Congratulations!”

all the way to Mother/Baby Unit,

as if I heroed, injured

in a glorious battle;

awarded a rose gold trophy.


I had become a legend

for not using Epidural—


(a 3.5-inch needle inserted

into the arched spinal cord,

a catheter of IV fluids

threaded into the back,

blocking the nerve impulses

from the lower spinal segments.


Let mothers rest and relax

during labor!)


But I primitived, endured

the pain, imprinted on

every inch of the separation

that’ll never be reunited.


It is the same way Mom birthed,

still so common in China.



How can I choose a daycare center?

Church school, development lab, Montessori, in-home care?

When I don’t have anyone else’s story to remember.


The chubby cheeks and cherry mouth are clever

to match the curve of my neck, while he clings like a koala bear.

It’s a crime to drop him in a daycare center.


I was the kid who kicked, refused to enter,

cried too much. My teacher locked me in the bathroom, “Fair

to other kids!” A terrible story to remember.


I want him to learn English from a native speaker,

but also worry about his Chinese. With yellow skin and dark hair,

it’s hard to find Asians in Georgia daycare centers.


The shameless administration’s a lavish spender

of my monthly salary, while they keep me waiting at the door,

full of expectations. A contradictory story to remember.


“The children were pricked, fed wasabi, stripped naked,” from a Beijing newspaper.

It can’t happen——right? Not over here?

It’s so hard to choose a daycare center,

if you have so many stories to remember.


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About the Author

Kuo Zhang is a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching assistant in TESOL & World Language Education at the University of Georgia. She has a book of poetry in both Chinese and English, Broadleaves (Shenyang Press). Her poem “One Child Policy” was awarded second place in the 2012 Society for Humanistic Anthropology [SHA] Poetry Competition held by the American Anthropology Association. She served as poetry & arts editor for the Journal of Language & Literacy Education in 2016-2017 and also one of the judges for 2015 & 2016 SHA Poetry Competition.

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