the night of the attack
mother did you hear them
they had tongues like lightning
and forked through the forest
shooting the heads off sparrows.
mother did you see their
bonfires pimpling the hills & beach &
giving the sky bright
freckles, & did you see the moon,
keening in endless flags with their howls,
& did you hear the leaves,
mother would you believe their
bellies pale & so gashed
I thought I could swim in them, sailboat
arms in Yangtzes of flesh. & their mouths
were shaping secret words, the kind that rifles speak
to one another, the language loud
like dropping flies or stars.
wake father. wake brother. when again
will soldiers comb back
the hair of our forests, stomping on
our scalpy hills with red hangnail boots.
when again will Chongqings wheeze
& whip up flocks of bullets in migration.
mother ring the bells around
the chimney & throw our papers
in the smokestack. mother feed
your children & then run, we
fed with fire. all of us
the ridges of a stupored soil,
the bushes still asleep, as with
the stars. us running from a lightband,
from a wingless bird that’s shrieking
in our tongue.
mother jump at whistles
& mosquitoes. mother did you hear
their boots go shuffle in the leaves?
wrap up tentpoles. scratch up rations.
mother search for islands. hurry,
any islands on the map.
their jaws hinging. camo-blinking
on the coastline. seashelled children
kissing cheeks & disappearing. mother
is that harbor? mother
is that ocean? mother there’s salt
in my eye. it’s rough & running
& leaving stars everywhere.
sister jump the bramble.
brother jump the border.
mother hold your children.
mother i can’t see.
the lie, the orphan tongue, the sail unchipped
& Filipino fishlined from the roil, the chap-lipped
soil, a withered mother which no longer grows,
the arms upturned, the branches deaf.
an island turns in on itself. Scylla swallows
a head. a boat whirlpools & the sea spits out
my grandmother. she fishes out a library,
sans titles. ink drips, returns
to pre-immigrant land.
the syllables choke back under the knife (the bridge,
the tongue) & what we mean to say
is drowned & salted. minced & steaming,
served stolen on faux-china plates. noodles unpulled
& skin doughy. my fingers sticky with
trying to speak.
churn out the hurt again. reach down
& call it home. the wet port & the sorry
weight of flesh. the pain of fitting
language in a cage, a chest. the violent
flutter of the bird that sings my tongue.
a whip that coils & jolts with all
the hate I bear & breathe. to speak, to burn,
to spit: dura, dusa.