Poetry / November 2009 (Issue 9)


by Lillian Kwok

It is not a choice but a simple fall of the oracle
blocks in the temple by the sea that lets blood bring
the daughters back from foreign lands. The gods are patient;
they are not jealous. Long ago, they drew the turtle and the snake
which guard the river mouth. This is the misty country—it is a tongue
tracing the body lines—a legend full of heavy air
and days of unending rain. In the seventh month the gates
of hell open and the ghosts fill the oceans,
because my people have open hearts and believe in respite
from everything. The ashes fall on bare skin and death
does not cling so tightly, but escapes through the smoke
constantly burning duty and remembrance. And here we eat
from the earth’s boiling waters; the salt taste
and the grass beneath our feet. Take me to the golden
temple where the angry god shakes the waters. And our nights
end in fields of fireflies that rise up from the rain-soaked
lands. They light up the twisting mountain paths, and fall
from the skies into the black-sand sea.

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