Purvi Shah’s poem collects the voices and stories of some of the women who fasted to promote immigration reform as part of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum in late 2013. To learn more about the fast, read the poet’s note after listening to the audio recording of her reading “Your Body Is a Dark Axiom You Are Trying to Prove. Here” below.

Your Body Is a Dark Axiom You Are Trying to Prove. Here,

By Purvi Shah

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Your body is a dark axiom you are trying to prove. Here, 11 million

account for your limbs. Even Scheherazade could notoutlast

border patrol, quarrel of guns with no ears to hear. Stay

—for 22

days, I keptthinking of the immigrationfasters on the hill, how gravity draws proofs together, this tent across from dome, shelterto shelter: I kept

thinking about my birth mother and my motherland. I’m a transnational adoptee born in South Korea. I kept thinkingI could’ve

easily been someone

without citizenship. Body swathed in clear paper – tight, like taut string – russet parrots awaiting a ceremony, cupping shape, warm

water of wounds in our throats: on this day

I was making meals for my 3 year old and breast feeding my baby. What struck me most about this fast was motherhood, what we as mothers will do for our children – protect care make lives better. With each passing meal, more intimately connected to other moms and more pissed off that they are punished for choices to protect care make lives better, risk

being separated to protect care make lives better.Traveling stories, Scheherazade hungers.

Silences spun by shadows. I frame and post the citizenship that I’ve received in November 2012. The day that I fast I was thinking of a fellow poet who was deported. His name is Kosal.

To document a present, you loot the future: I fasted on 12/23 and knew that Christmas dim sum with my QTPOC & immigrant chosen family was right around the corner. Today, you

have 3 chinese buns and feelings of gratitude. “Aren’t you hungry?”

Standstill as victory. Our legislature, lifeless: chained to war-mongering, no governance as governance.

I don’t think I gained much besides a headache. At midnight,

the Statue of Liberty strips her shawl to thaw you.They were custard buns and I think a meat bun. How does 1 tell 11 million stories?


is silhouette, the way a mother checks for drones or a private room to pump

at work. The body’s fuelis story: there was a smell! Hunger enhances your smell. Scheherazade is aware every map

has a scent, a small action, a solstice, a sister,a space you can dwell:My partner didn’t believe I could do it. I told him to join me. He

didn’t; he made bacon (torture!) –but I didn’t break my fast.

You recoveryour own spell as

Scheherazade survives each hour: I am

showing my commitment to immigration reform and specifically my parents and their siblings, but they probably think I was silly for doing the hunger fast. Thinking about my parents living in the US as grad students with kids, trying to support

them off a shoestring budget.

Scheherazade strokes migrants/ a nation’s dark nutrients: my great grandfather, who was an activist against British colonialism and a followerof Gandhi even though he was a Muslim man.

Scheherazade says eat what you cannot see: listen. Short fastsare not newto me.Scheherazade laughs – My laptop distracted from hunger pangs. Scheherazade says just about anything could make me laugh, I laugh a lot.

Scheherazade says our village is squandered, yet there is a mother just around the corner.This is a struggle –

when my mind wandered to food – to show solidarity. You have a choice. Suck it up.

Scheherazade knows we are all born

ready to act fast. Here

is dawn. Scheherazade is prepared to eat. Let the 11 million storiesbegin.

* “Your body is a dark axiom you are trying to prove. Here,” emerged in dialogue with members of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum who, during the entire month of December 2013, each held a day-long fast for comprehensive immigration reform in solidarity with Fast for Families. From April 7-9, 2014, NAPAWF participated in a 48-hour fast to underscore urgency for immigration action. Thank you to Melissa Cariño, Darlene Cayabyab, S Nadia Hussain, Narate Judie Keys, Alicia Leandro-Jorawar, Nebula Li, Joy Messinger, Kathy Nakagawa, Jackie Payne, and Julia Yang – whose fierce words on their fasting experiences appear in italics. Thank you for sharing your stories.

Purvi Shah inspires change through her work as a nonprofit and media consultant, anti-violence advocate and writer. In 2008, she won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award for her leadership fighting violence against women. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices. Terrain Tracks is her award-winning book of poetry. She is known for her sparkly eyeshadow and raucous laughter. Discover her work at http://purvipoets.net or @PurviPoets.


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