Poetry / November 2009 (Issue 9)


by Arlene Kim

Letter: Antonin Dvorak to his children
Otilka, you are the oldest and most sensible and I depend on you ... Be good then ...
remember what I say ...

Letter: Antonin Dvorak to Anton Seidl
... And now the horrible story between mother and witch is going on ...

Mother passed to me
her tiger, cruel and hungry, come
to make of me his meal if I went on
disobeying. Beast
left wandering, left guarding what
forms he could not become. Im-
patient himself, he could not wait 100 days
to see the sun. He left the Bear to his own
story. It’s always this way, it seems, two
brothers, parting—the good and the bad
one—creating nations
of believers, of sinners. Tiger-Brother prowls

now, keeps watch on all
the young from mother's line,
hunts what he lost, ready to take you
from home, your true fear.
Drag you like meat
to an unknown lair, where
soon you, too, will go
unknown. Home, you imagine,
goes on forgetting you. Dear

naughty children, there is no negotiating, no
escape by riddle.
There is just being
swept off under a warm, coarse coat.
No more family, no more
name. Lost in strange music,
it is hard to tell, mother
or tiger? Both
hold you, close, you
to their breast, their line. Don't
, a ghost rumor, a breath
like a door opening, closing.
It’s hard to tell which. I have

never seen a guardian
angel, or any angel for that matter.
Though tigers are plenty. And grim
tales. All the ways of lapsing.
I have forgotten, Mother. I pass
unschooled, unchurched. I wander in the wood,
thimbles spent, pecked by evening's thousand beaks,
always about to meet an old woman
who will catch me
in the crook of her wizened arm, croon foul
familiar songs, stitch me
to her belly, boil away
my name, marry me to her
twig broom, her
lonely Tiger-Brother.

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