Friday, May 29, 2020

not Poetry Thursday, but #APHM POETRY!

Cloth Birds
~Dorothy Tse
Translated by Natascha Bruce

There’s no cloth hawker in the bazaar
willing to make dirty deals
with the health inspector
neither will they confess the link
between those bolts of flyaway fabric
and ancient birds
(lo a sage appeared
drilled fire from sticks
transformed the stinking food
and the people were happy)
after the ban on cooking smoke
glug glug swallow
the secret of seawater and its fish
tile cities built up and pulled down
at four in the afternoon
a routine inspection
into the cleanliness of laughter
a hand spread wide in the dark is
splattered with light
a carambola tree sprouts branches from stumps
its remaining fruits sour and shrivelled to stardust
swaying in the void
the sky so dull
and the city official
at the newly-sterilized entrance
frantically gouging
a spy hole onto the blankness

Copyright © 2019 Dorothy Tse and Natascha Bruce. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders on September 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Poetry Thursday, Asian American History Month

Personal History
 ~Adrienne Su

The world’s largest Confederate monument
was too big to perceive on my earliest trips to the park.
Unlike my parents, I was not an immigrant

but learned, in speech and writing, to represent.
Picnicking at the foot and sometimes peak
of the world’s largest Confederate monument,

we raised our Cokes to the first Georgian president.
His daughter was nine like me, but Jimmy Carter,
unlike my father, was not an immigrant.

Teachers and tour guides stressed the achievement
of turning three vertical granite acres into art.
Since no one called it a Confederate monument,

it remained invisible, like outdated wallpaper meant
long ago to be stripped. Nothing at Stone Mountain Park
echoed my ancestry, but it’s normal for immigrants

not to see themselves in landmarks. On summer nights,
fireworks and laser shows obscured, with sparks,
the world’s largest Confederate monument.
Our story began when my parents arrived as immigrants.

Copyright © 2019 by Adrienne Su. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

not Poetry Thursday, but I got some POETRY #APHM

Self-Portrait as Semiramis
 ~Mary-Kim Arnold

Had I been raised by doves
wouldn’t I have learned
to fly

By wolves
to hunt in packs

Had I been raised by gods
wouldn’t I too
be godlike

In the movies the orphan
is the killer
not loved enough

But wasn’t I

My mother
fish goddess
dove into the sea
for the sin of loving
a mortal man

I love a mortal man too

At night I coax him
from sleep
rousing him
with my mouth

By day
we build high brick walls
around us
                   our Babylon

Had my mother lived
to see me rise from this boundless
            would she recognize me
as I have grown large
and my arms have become
the long arms of the sea
reaching over
                         and over
                                                 for the shore

Copyright © 2018 Mary-Kim Arnold. Used with permission of the author.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Recovered from DRAFTS ... more poetry for #APHM

The Gods of the Age
 ~Adeeba Shahid Talukder

When they first
glimpsed Creation, it was only

as in, only half-clear—
that night, they discerned
                                      and imagined.

In the mind’s waters,
a blurring,                  a refraction.
There, we were brimming,
we were multitudes,

but they saw our darkness
and named us Dark.

Copyright © 2018 Adeeba Shahid Talukder. Used with permission of the author.

Monday, May 25, 2020

it's not Thursday, but I got POETRY #APHM

Jeju Island
 ~E. J. Koh

Everything in the beginning is the same.
Clouds let us look at the sun.

Words let us watch a man about to be killed.
The eye-hollows of his skull see home.

When they stone him,
he knows what a stone is—each word, a stone:

The hole of his nose
as dark as the door I pass through.

The hole of his nose as dark as the door
I pass through. Blowing bubbles,

I wander the halls numerously.
He’s no longer my grandfather in weight.

Among old bodies piled high, they aim.
Living can tranquilize you.

Copyright © 2018 E. J. Koh. Used with permission of the author.

Friday, May 22, 2020

May is feeling short, so many awesome poems for #APHM... enjoy

ojha : rituals
 ~Raena Shirali

Ojhas are [medicine men, “the ones next to God,” religious ministers or priests who deal with the daily struggles of the village people]; this dynamic allows the village ojha to control the circulation of rumors, and he is the village member who has the power to trap daayans (witches). In some trials, the ojha reads grains of rice, burn marks on branches, and disturbances in the sand around his residence, for signs of a daayan.

certain beliefs precede his name & yet
he goes by many : dewar, bhagat,

priest. passive ear, the kind

of listener you’d give
your own face.


first, the village must [agree
that spirits exist]—some benevolent,
some deserving of fear. everyone

wants their universe
to have reason. so it must be
a woman who stole your portion

of rice, woman who smeared
your doorstep’s rangoli, woman
who looked sideways at your child.


give him your gossip & the ojha conjures
herbs to [appease the evil] : her raving,
innocent mouth. & by that token
what is truth. the other rumors,

too, could corroborate—that bullets
pass through, his body barely
there but for the holy
in his hands.


he chants her name with fingers
pushed into his ears. just the sound
of her bangles
undoes : a single woman

on a plot of land, unbecoming.
he reads her guilt [in grains
of rice, in the light of a lamp,
using a cup which moves

and identifies]. makes a circle
around himself. white sand
between him &
the world. it’s the dead hour.

now, he shouts, arms covered
in ants, sing.

Copyright © 2019 Raena Shirali. Used with permission of the author.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Poetry Thursday, Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Search Engine: Notes from the North Korean-Chinese-Russian Border
 ~Suji Kwock Kim
                               By which a strip of land became a hole in time
                                                                                     —Durs Grünbein

Grandfather I cannot find,
flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone,
what country do you belong to:

where is your body buried,
where did your soul go
when the road led nowhere?

Grandfather I’ll never know,
the moment father last saw you
rips open a wormhole

that has no end: the hours
became years, the years
forever: and on the other side

lies a memory of a memory
or a dream of a dream of a dream
of another life, where what happened

never happened, what cannot come true
comes true: and neither erases
the other, or the other others,

world after world, to infinity—
If only I could cross the border
and find you there,

find you anywhere,
as if you could tell me who he is, or was,
or might have become:

no bloodshot eyes, or broken
bottles, or praying with cracked lips
because the past is past and was is not is—

Grandfather, stranger,
give me back my father—
or not back, not back, give me the father

I might have had:                               
there, in the country that no longer exists,
on the other side of the war—

Copyright © 2019 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Poetry about KRAZY KAT #APHM, not Thursday...

Study of Two Figures (Ignatz/Krazy)
 ~Monica Youn

You have written truth, you friends of the “shadows,” yet be not harsh with “Krazy.”
He is but a shadow himself, caught in the web of this mortal skein.
We call him “Cat,”
We call him “Crazy”
Yet is he neither.
At some time will he ride away to you, people of the twilight, his password will be the echoes of a vesper bell, his coach, a zephyr from the West.
Forgive him, for you will understand him no better than we who linger on this side of the pale.
            —George Herriman, Krazy Kat, June 17, 1917


The smaller figure is rendered as a grouping of ovals: head, torso, ears.

The roundness of the ovals suggests a kind of plenty—a trove that the line wraps around protectively like a mother’s arm or like an electrified fence.

A circle is similarly bounded, but the radial symmetry of the circle suggests safety, stasis.

The oval, instead, is restless, pushing against its boundaries, seeking escape or release.

The line is necessary to contain the oval or to defend it.

The ovals of the figure evoke the pads of a prickly pear, tapering where they join together.

The prickly pear defends its precious hoard of water with its long straight spines.

The figure has no spines.

Instead of spines, the figure has sharp straight lines that make up its arms, legs, eyebrows.

The figure uses these lines to convey hostility—kicking, throwing things, expressing scorn or rage.

We understand these violent actions to be defensive, motivated by fear—a belief that the cherished contents of the ovals are somehow under threat.

But the ovals of the figure contain nothing.

Nothing, that is, except the underlying blankness of the page.

The lines of the figure separate the blankness inside the ovals from the blankness outside the ovals.

We are told to read the figure as white.

In order to read the figure as white we must read the blank background as white.

We have often been told that blankness means whiteness.

But this does not help us understand what it is that the figure fears.


The larger figure is rendered as a continuous solid.

Most of the solid is filled in with closely spaced lines.

These lines are known as “hatching” or “hatchmarks.”

We are told to read these hatching lines as blackness.

We are told to read the figure as black.

The figure has a white face.

I say “white face” although the face is blank because we are told to read these blank spaces as white.

The mouth and eyes are rendered as lines.

Were the hatching lines to cover the face, the expression of the eyes and mouth would no longer be legible.

In order for the expression to be legible, the face must remain white.

The hatching lines are pulled tightly back from the forehead like the wig of a founding father.

The exposed forehead, arching over each wide eye, suggests the possibility of enlightenment.

Enlightenment is rendered as a form of blankness, the unhatched space.

In order to achieve enlightenment, the hatching lines must be kept at bay like saplings rooted out to clear a field.

The hatching lines are “beyond the pale.”

That is, the hatching lines are beyond the boundary line that separates what is clear from what is not clear.

We are told that the larger figure is also “beyond the pale.”

We are told that the larger figure is drawn to the smaller figure.

We are told that the smaller figure is not drawn to the larger figure.

The smaller figure keeps the larger figure at bay.

If the figures were to encroach upon each other, the blank spaces would fill in with hatching lines.

These spaces would read as black spaces

You would not be able to read the lines of arms or legs or features against this black background.

That is why they never touch each other because you wouldn’t be able to read it.

Copyright © 2019 Monica Youn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

POETRY! #APHM (it's not Thursday)

~Kaveh Akbar

my father is tying concertina wire
around his garden which is
now all but ruined by
squirrels deer and worst
of all rabbits with cucumber
seeds stuck to their
tails     I am an apex predator my father is
an apex predator god makes
us in pairs      my mother searches the lawn
for four-leaf clovers pinning them
to a scrapbook pinning
moments to time she gives each clover
a name Buck Comes Onto Porch and
Hospital Note From Kaveh    while
she makes tea inside I search
the house for a lighter and can’t
even find matches       what I miss most
about winter is the brightness of
winter summer’s all foggy and
wet       my mother hovers in
the kitchen like a strange tune       she is out
of saffron and has no money
for more        she weeps over her
bleach-white rice until my
father comes in cracks an egg
over the plate bursts
the yolk says see says yellow       my mother
smiles so big and sad she wrinkles into
the future where my eyes
are yellow again maybe from the yolk
maybe something else       my fur is coming in
so thick my mother would squeal
with pride if she could see it      when she
was pregnant I kicked so hard so
often she could barely
sleep       staying up all
night she thought she must
be full of bunnies

Copyright © 2019 Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Monday, May 18, 2020

not Thursday, but Poetry - #APHM

~Hieu Minh Nguyen

Maybe a bit dramatic, but I light
candles with my breakfast, wear a white gown
around the house like a virgin. Right
or wrong, forgive me? No one in this town
knows forgiveness. Miles from the limits
if I squint, there’s Orion. If heaven
exists I will be there in a minute
to hop the pearly gates, a ghost felon,
to find him. Of blood, of mud, of wise men.
But who am I now after all these years
without him: boy widow barbarian
trapping hornets in my shit grin. He’ll fear
who I’ve been since. He’ll see I’m a liar,
a cheater, a whole garden on fire.

Copyright © 2019 Hieu Minh Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Poetry Thursday ... better late than never

 ~Bhanu Kapil

with the anemone zero.

Drink 12 oz. of coffee in Longmont.

Are you parched?

Is your name Pinky?

What color is the skin of your inner arm, creamy?

Valentine City rebate: a box of chocolates from Safeway.

Yours, yours, yours.

In its entirety.

Don’t collude with your inability to give or receive love.

Collude, instead, with the lining of the universe.

Descent, rotation, silk water, brief periods of intense sunlight striated with rose pink glitter.

The glitter can only get us.

So far.

Here we are at the part with the asphalt, airstream Tupperware, veins, some nice light stretching.

Call me.

This is a poem for a beloved.

Who never arrived.

Copyright © 2019 Bhanu Kapil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Poetry Thursday, Asian American History Month Edition

On Floriography
 ~Karen An-Hwei Lee

If you often find yourself at a loss for words
or don’t know what to say to those you love,
just extract poetry out of poverty, this dystopia
                            of civilization rendered fragrant,
             blossoming onto star-blue fields of loosestrife,
heady spools of spike lavender, of edible clover
                            beckoning to say without bruising
a jot of dog’s tooth violet, a nib of larkspur notes,
                        or the day’s perfumed reports of indigo
                                in the gloaming—
              what to say to those
                           whom you love in this world?
Use floriography, or as the flower-sellers put it,
Say it with flowers.
—Indigo, larkspur, star-blue, my dear.

Copyright © 2019 by Karen An-Hwei Lee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

#APHM Poetry, not Poetry Thursday .... rescued from the draft folder, it was a hard day

Gold Mountain
~Emily Yong

This morning—jeweled mannequins
In glass in a frame. Shadows. Bergdorf’s, Saks
5th Avenue. A dress of Coco Chanel an opera
A ballet A world away—
Lower East Side. I hear louder & louder
Faster, faster Delancey, Mott Street, rising
Above the hum the spinning the throbbing of
The bobbin-winder. Sweatshop din. Women
From Hong Kong, Mong Kok, choked in demonic
Heat. The fiber-dust-heat. 12 hours seated:
In shirt-waist-dust. No break no ventilation
& stooped over her Singer, Mother
                                                       —I never saw her
—There.  Her satin-scented hands
The faint scent of ginger & almond—
Fingers quickly—feeding
                                    —the machine—fingers:
Cutting up garments, fragments How
Could it have been each piece, pennies
To the tick of the clock?
                                                      I am 9—
Before there are words to know
What it means to be 9.  Happy & did not know
What being happy meant.  Or innocence—

Standing there, Midtown, outside
Harold’s Broadway & 14th—where she
Did take me. Couture wool scraps. Ribbons.
Bullion fringes. Faux suede
                                                         fabric— fleshy—
Appliqués. Mother’s eyes in the window
Flashing— looking in. Always constructing—
The same French coat draping it over Jackie O’s
Shoulder would it look runway-stunning
On me? On her shoulder too why not
—On hers? Denim in 12 metallic versions
I clutched my mother’s arm clutched them all the
Beaded Trimmings—
Followed her inside where eyes
                                                 wide: dilated—lives—
Yards & yards piled high: bolts of
Dupioni, silk-shantung. Charmeuse.
I caressed them with my fingers.
After my mother, fumbled into their folds
Fibers creases—infinite
                                        Dresses of: vermilion,
Gold. The palpable—
Hem—of the city Gum San Gold
Mountain America I was a child &
                                                          Everything! was there—
Mother’s taffeta dresses: hand-sewn
& Sewn—for me. Had I known, consigned
—To the stars. And then even not
That, nothing better than those dresses that dressed
—Her wounds. What did I know? Only that her signature
Begins in the looping style: tiny embroidered ladybugs or
Butterflies swooping down
                                              —from another—realm
I think I saw heaven—where she
Was & for awhile &— in her dreams: There-then
                                                    —as in: moments: silences
Sewn. Threaded: each seam, each
Crease. The recesses. Over & over the way
—A breath—is held; is
                                   —A sharp pain—stitched

Copyright © 2020 by Emily Yong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 23, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

rescued from the draft folder, #APHM Poetry, not Poetry Thursday

River to River
 ~Hai-Dang Phan
           After Jen Bervin / After Quan Barry

River spidering across the wall, sailing
through the air. River flashing with silver
sequins fastened to sunbeams. River always
in pieces, a torn ribbon streaming everywhere.
River carving out a canyon through the years,
seen from a sudden grassy overlook,
an old bridge, a new shoreline, endlessly
crossing and recrossing our lives. River
this winter with sixteen eagles alert
and searching. River unfrozen and pooling
around the ankles of trees in springtime,
daring us closer. River asleep inside
the black night like a spent lover,
dreaming of being a chandelier of rain,
first velvet wet drops on bare skin. Go,
go on. Conveyor belt of clouds, destroyer
and preserver of towns, longest breath
of the earth, tell us what floating means
to you. Some trees are weeping, river.
Speak of all you carry and carry off
in river song and river silence. Be horse,
be ferry, carry us from now to next to.
River, I’m done with fading shadows.
Give me daylight broken and scattered
across your fluid transparent face,
come meet me with the moon and the stars
running and tumbling along your sides.
River swinging open like a gate to the sea,
time’s no calendar of months, you say,
but water in the aftermath of light.
Your drifting cargo tells us everything
arrives from far away and long ago
and ends in the body, boat of heartache
and ecstasy we pilot, in quest of passage also.
River we call Mississippi or Mekong,
sing us forth to nowhere but here,
with your perfect memory be our flood.

Copyright © 2019 Hai-Dang Phan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Not Thursday Poetry, #APHM edition

19th Amendment Ragtime Parade
~Marilyn Chin

Birthday, birthday, hurray, hurray
The 19th Amendment was ratified today

Drum rolls, piano rolls, trumpets bray
The 19th Amendment was ratified today

Left hand bounces, right hand strays
Maestro Joplin is leading the parade

Syncopated hashtags, polyrhythmic goose-steps
Ladies march to Pennsylvania Avenue!

Celebrate, ululate, caterwaul, praise
Women’s suffrage is all the rage

Sisters! Mothers! Throw off your bustles
Pedal your pushers to the voting booth

Pram it, waltz it, Studebaker roadster it
Drive your horseless carriage into the fray

Prime your cymbals, flute your skirts
One-step, two-step, kick-ball-change

Castlewalk, Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear waltz
Argentine Tango, flirty and hot

Mommies, grannies, young and old biddies
Temperance ladies sip bathtub gin

Unmuzzle your girl dogs, Iowa your demi-hogs
Battle-axe polymaths, gangster moms

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Lucy Burns and Carrie Chapman Catt

Alice Paul, come one, come all!
Sign the declaration at Seneca Falls!
Dada-faced spinsters, war-bond Prufrocks
Lillian Gish, make a silent wish

Debussy Cakewalk, Rachmaninoff rap
Preternatural hair bobs, hamster wheels   

Crescendos, diminuendos, maniacal pianos
Syncopation mad, cut a rug with dad!

Oompa, tuba, majorette girl power
Baton over Spamalot!

Tiny babies, wearing onesies
Raise your bottles, tater-tots!

Accordion nannies, wash-board symphonies
Timpani glissando!
                    The Great War is over!

Victory, freedom, justice, reason
Pikachu, sunflowers, pussy hats

Toss up your skull caps, wide brim feathers
Throwing shade on the seraphim

Hide your cell phones, raise your megaphones!
Speak truth to power
                           and vote, vote vote!


Nitwit legislators, gerrymandering fools
Dimwit commissioners, judicial tools
Toxic senators, unholy congressmen
Halitosis ombudsmen, mayoral tricks
Doom calf demagogues, racketeering mules
Whack-a-mole sheriffs, on the take

Fornicator governators, rakehell collaborators
Tweeter impersonators, racist prigs
Postbellum agitators, hooligan aldermen
Profiteering warmongers, Reconstruction dregs

Better run, rascals     better pray
We’ll vote you out      on judgement day!

Better run, rascals      better pray
We’ll vote you out       on election day!

Copyright © 2020 by Marilyn Chin. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative and published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Friday, May 08, 2020

not Thursday, but POETRY! #APHM

Ode to the Boy Who Jumped Me
~Monica Sok

You and your friend stood 
on the corner of the liquor store
as I left Champa Garden, 

takeout in hand, on the phone 
with Ashley who said, 
That was your tough voice.

I never heard your tough voice before. 
I gave you boys a quick nod, 
walked E 21st past dark houses. 

Before I could reach the lights 
on Park, you criss-crossed 
your hands around me,

like a friend and I’d hoped 
that you were Seng, 
the boy I’d kissed on First Friday 

in October. He paid for my lunch 
at that restaurant, split the leftovers. 
But that was a long time ago 

and we hadn’t spoken since, 
so I dropped to my knees 
to loosen myself from your grip, 

my back to the ground, I kicked 
and screamed but nobody 
in the neighborhood heard me, 

only Ashley on the other line, 
in Birmingham, where they say 
How are you? to strangers 

not what I said in my tough voice
but what I last texted Seng, 
no response. You didn’t get on top, 

you hovered. My elbows banged 
the sidewalk. I threw 
the takeout at you and saw 

your face. Young. More scared 
of me than I was of you. 
Hands on my ankles, I thought 

you’d take me or rape me. 
Instead you acted like a man 
who slipped out of my bed

and promised to call: 
You said nothing. 
Not even what you wanted.

Copyright © 2020 by Monica Sok. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Poetry Thursday, Asian Pacific History Month Edition

I Am the Whole Defense
 ~Mai Der Vang
Mid-1700s, Southwestern China

Lightning is the creature who carries a knife.

Two months now,
The rains hold watch.

Statues bury in teak
Smeared with old egret’s blood.

I feel the pulse of this inferno,
Tested by the hour to know

That even torches must not waver.

In the garrison, I teach boulders
To trickle from the cliff.

My fallen grow parchment from their hair,

Calligraphy descends
From their lips.

Infantry attack
But my musket knows.

They scale the sides
Yet I tear the rocks.

I am not wife, but my name is Widow.

Let them arrive
To my ready door,
The earth I’ve already dug.

Copyright © 2016 Mai Der Vang. Used with permission of the author.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

APHM not Poetry Thursday

~Paul Tran

I thought I could stop
time by taking apart
the clock. Minute hand. Hour hand.

Nothing can keep. Nothing
is kept. Only kept track of. I felt

passing seconds
accumulate like dead calves
in a thunderstorm

of the mind no longer a mind
but a page torn
from the dictionary with the definition of self

effaced. I couldn’t face it: the world moving

on as if nothing happened.
Everyone I knew got up. Got dressed.
Went to work. Went home.

There were parties. Ecstasy.
Hennessy. Dancing
around each other. Bluntness. Blunts

rolled to keep
thought after thought
from roiling

like wind across water—
coercing shapelessness into shape.

I put on my best face.
I was glamour. I was grammar.

Yet my best couldn’t best my beast.

I, too, had been taken apart.
I didn’t want to be
fixed. I wanted everything dismantled and useless

like me. Case. Wheel. Hands. Dial. Face.

Copyright © 2020 by Paul Tran. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Asian Pacific Heritage Month Poetry Spotlight #APHM (oops... saved from the draft folder)

Redacted from a Know-Your-Rights Training Agenda—
 ~Cynthia Dewi Oka

That a potholed street in the middling borough of Collingswood, New Jersey bears the name Atlantic, after an all-consuming body of water.

That all-consuming is Atlas’ curse to bear the heavens on his shoulders.

That after the fall of the gods, half of the heavens is darkness.

That inside the car speeding down the street, I believe I am safe from being halved.

That “I” am not a white box, but a body of water.

That white is a pattern of boys who expect to live long enough to become men.

That some of these boys are whistling by on their bikes, and behind them, clear as a dream, welcome candles in the windows framed by blooms of vervain.

That “welcome” means I thought I was not afraid of the dark.

Since the jade scrubs of the cancer ward.

Since the florescent grid of the factory and the vista of small bones in my father’s collar while I was interpreting for the twenty-something-year-old white citizen,

                                 “Tell your dad he can quit or I can fire him.”

Grief had already burst its cocoon; it ate him like an army of moths from the inside.

That brown men and women kept stitching jackets under the heavens of the machines.


That a moth is trapped in the car with me – it will die, but I do not want to practice florescence alone.

Like a first language bleeding hearts call, speaking truth to power.

I don’t know how they don’t know that power doesn’t care.

That watching fires go out will become a pattern.

That fire is everywhere, and therefore, cheap.

That the hole in my foundation is all-consuming and at its bottom a frangipani tree opens its yellow hands.

That POLICE ICE is printed in yellow or white on the jacket of the night.

That the night walks freely among the ranks of the sun.

That a body of water parted once like a red skirt then sealed over the armored horses of Egypt.

That Whitney Houston is a bone blasting

out the car windows.

That tonight, the night after, the night after that, for as long as the distance between god and a pothole, a moth’s flight will spell,

                                 “They are coming for you.”

Copyright © 2018 Cynthia Dewi Oka. Used with permission of the author.

Friday, May 01, 2020

APAHM Poetry Edition, kick off

Spoken For
 ~Li-Young Lee

I didn’t know I was blue,
until I heard her sing.

I was never aware so much
had been lost
even before I was born.
There was so much to lose
even before I knew
what it meant to choose.

Born blue,
living blue unconfessed, blue
in concealment, I’ve lived all my life
at the plinth
of greater things than me.

Morning is greater
with its firstborn light and birdsong.
Noon is taller, though a moment’s realm.
Evening is ancient and immense, and
night’s storied house more huge.

But I had no idea.
And would have died without a clue,
except she began to sing. And I understood

my soul is a bride enthralled by an unmet groom,
or else the groom wholly spoken for, blue
in ardor, happy in eternal waiting.

I heard her sing and knew
I would never hear the true

name of each thing
until I realized the abysmal
ground of all things. Her singing
touched that ground in me.

Now, dying of my life, everything is made new.
Now, my life is not my life. I have no life
apart from all of life.

And my death is not my death,
but a pillow beneath my head, a rock
propping the window open
to admit the jasmine.

I heard her sing,
and I’m no longer afraid.
Now that I know what she knows, I hope
never to forget
how giant the gone
and immaculate the going.
How much I’ve already lost.
How much I go on losing.
How much I’ve lived
all one blue. O, how much
I go on living.

"Spoken For" from The Undressing by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.