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Ode to Iris Chang


ISSUE:  Fall 2006

1

Listen: I can almost hear
the sea galloping below.
The trail winds down

through the Douglas firs,
as the shadows of a brain might.
At this fencepost,

under buckeye trees,
nuts have eyes like those
of buck deer, as if mocking me.

Let me look at you
for a thousand days without
turning. Let me know

your posture the way roots know.
Why do your footsteps no longer
match the beating in my chest?

I can no longer hear your breathing,
just the rain that can’t hold off
its falling. Why do you think

a hike will mute such melancholia?
Mat down “it happened”
to “don’t worry”? I am counting

your steps upward,
numbering the wet trees,
I watch the hawk catch

the wind currents—
how strange to think it is free
within its entrapment.

You still cannot hear what I hear—
the hawk’s wings opening
like newly sparked tinder.

2

“The Nanking Incident as I See It”

—Nakamura Akira, professor of history at Dokkyo University

The Chinese ignored
the Japanese Army’s summons to
 capitulate.

3

Why can’t I be the girl
getting her cuticles pushed back?
Or the one who
ate the leaf and its shadow? How I love
the shadows more
than the leaves that take and take.
I have grown used
to working under two dusty suns. Let the florid
smell of human meat
make the birds come down. Let it turn
your sail and pull you in, too.

 

4

And while the woman waited

for the bayonet to settle

in her, she dreamt that a Japanese

soldier had sewn it in there one night,
then tiptoed downstairs and kissed

his son on the forehead.
How his wife

had left a bowl of rice, seaweed, and
dried horse mackerel

on the kitchen table,

how the wife may have

felt something, but an ocean has
no teeth.

It just tongues and

tongues.

5

How

 

to stay faithful to humans.

How to stay faithful to
earth when all that is there is a

derivative of mud.

6

It was easier work than she had imagined—
Reed’s Sport Shop and its glass case of

Civil War pistol replicas,

under deer heads frozen in their shame.

7

“Tall and slender,” the revolver
of her body,

and the Oldsmobile,

her head fastened to the window,

red dripping into tiny rafts

of vinyl.

8

Some days the yard
and the angel trumpet breeze
But today is not that day.
dark clouds braid each other.
cut off the head of the tree,
Birds dive around me in alarm.
the branches, down the trunk,
When I’m finished, it doesn’t
The angel trumpets raise
able to hold off the hundreds
the gate. But my body feels light.
it takes everything but the trunk.

smells of molasses
blows at the perfect speed.
The sky sounds like rope twisting,
I climb up the orchard ladder,
saw each limb down.
I work my way around
until nothing but a stump remains.
start raining, the bark doesn’t peel off.
their drooping petals, no longer
of colors that scatter through
When the wind blows in,

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