Rufina Jinju Kang
Above all else, survival is key.
Do what you must to survive.
But be careful. Do not spend
too long inside any one skin;
do not wear too long any one mask.
Spend too long inside a shape
and the shape shapes you.
Hold another’s hand for too long
and you will forget how to make a fist.
Walk beside another for too far
and you will forget how to run.
Gaze into another’s eyes too often
and you will lose your own path.
Kiss another’s mouth too deeply
and you will lose your own voice.
Live among them, laugh with them,
but do not forget who you are.
Be trusted, but do not trust.
Charm them, but do not be charmed.
Unlock them, but stay locked.
Never tell them your true name;
never tell them your true age.
That which escapes notice
also escapes destruction;
that which they do not know
they cannot use against you.
Brush your tails every night you can.
Slip outside in your own pelt
to greet the stars at least once a month
and feel the wind on your fur.
And if loneliness lulls you into
lowering your guard, if someone
begs for a glimpse of your soul
and then recoils upon seeing
the shining gold of your true eyes,
flee and then forgive yourself.
Remember that time is on our side
although humans never are.
Rufina Jinju Kang is older than she looks and has been shifting between shapes, languages, and borders since before she was born. She regularly receives both well-meaning and hostile messages that she does not belong in three continents, so “home” for her is constituted by a handful of people rather than by her passport. She sews with thread to make bags and scarves, and with words to combat political indifference and historical amnesia. She is always glad to encounter kindred shifters and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.