Scavenger Hunt Where We See Our Ghosts and Run Toward Them

by Phoua Lee



Don’t forgive me, Dad.

               If you want to know why I kissed that girl 

under your motion-sensor porch light 

                                             we’ll start with


The night a deer hopped

                              in front of our truck 


                              I looked back even when you


told us eyes forward. I wanted to know how /destruction/

might look like, how I might peel open when you

someday took a corkscrew to my body: body turning to pulsing


               you: skinning my flesh into clothespinned blanket 

                                                            making me deer corpse


Veins can stretch an approximate 100,000 miles

               and I imagine you laying mine out on roadside

deciphering each secret encoded into blood vessel


When all else fails, take to the roadmap and pin my veins

as navigation route to where I hid my fingernails

under Jeffrey Pine roots in Coalinga 

                              as tribute to your severed finger


Write our names beside each other                Circle our last 3 letters

               oua          to make          creator          to do

You & I           determiners of our own fate

               You: survivor of the Secret War, orphan child

               Me: daughter of war refugee, outcasted queer


               The difference between prey and pursuer

is the distance between them and 

               what makes a /survivor/ is what was left behind

                         motherland, rice paddies, cicada tymbal music

Yog li no

               so the pursuer is behind us

                              so the pursuer becomes a part of us

You & I contained by our traumas


That deer on the road: both of us


Travel by car or foot 3 miles down the same road 

               the area where I saw the man 

in the field silver and shivering


                              like a glitch in reality 

more a hesitant silhouette than a human


He’s us: our ghost: our residue

               Have you found him yet. Have you found him.


Or are you still holding the gun to your temple

               like the liquor-green night I found you 

your feet plastered on carpet doing nothing to ground you

               your finger balancing gravity against trigger


Mloog kuv cov lus. Can you see my hesitant silhouette


               This means I am beside you. This means 

                                             our heartbeats will sync 

               soon.                     This means you are alive.

               This means you are staying.


Veins can stretch an approximate 100,000 miles

enough for us to cocoon ourselves into 

                                                            another tomorrow


Put the gun down, Dad. Lock it away.

               You once told me holes were evidence something

had suffered someone’s rage


You couldn’t be a sieve because you were afraid 

your children would slip through like egg yolk 

               when you carried us on your shoulders


Because you were careful knowing one hole in the fabric

               could manifest a weak spot for a larger tear

                              could cause it to be discarded.


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