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AUDIO: 'Your Body Is a Dark Axiom ... ': A Forceful Poem About Immigration Reform Activism

    National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum activists in December 2013. (NAPAWF)

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

#yourbody span {display: inline-block;}

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.

—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,

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?”

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

survives each hour: I am

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 or @PurviPoets.

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