Dear Millennium, Inadequate Witness

Say we no longer bear witness to a body-politic of trauma
after revolution
                by anesthesia or erasure. Say we cover our eyes 
to crossed olive-wood beams on a hill.  Modes of witness   
expose our inadequacy, the human.  Forgetting
is a sign—yes, a thing once existed. Say we are unworthy
of witness, internal or external—
                         our damaged wisdom, for instance,
our diminished capacity for empathy
             and heightened apathy to torture
mingled with doves     
                      of unfettered desire
                                         or an eclipsed divine.

More by Karen An-Hwei Lee

Dear Millennium, On the Angel of Immigration

In the bronze skin of your rain-mottled angel of immigration
who looks forward 
                          with a faux diamond clasp 
               of upward mobility on her watery clavicle, 
                                       inner rain called mizzle is shining— 
a frayed chrome-polishing 
                                        rag on a bicycle while the fig tree 
loses its foliage due to a blight called rust. Dear millennium, 
                           destined to be a girl, 
an artist not engineer, 
you’ve never fallen in love. (Do you even believe?) Centuries, 
                                                 this peace offering— 
a non-fruiting olive 
                                  transplanted 
                                       after your lavender died of root-rot 
                            on a winter afternoon in the north. 
(Day after a sea storm, holy 
and granular— 
             bayside hailing clean off the rim, napthlalene 
                                         stored in mothless boxes of air, 
of agelessness, hybrid tea-roses, and rocket fuel.) 
                           Ear-shaped, honey-combed morels 
flourish by the rosemary, edible yet uneaten— 
                                       dearly so, as evidence 
of a battered dictionary you once loved, too. (Light-drenched sea, 
             all its charismatic splendor, is a room 
                                                          of meticulous self-reform, 
                                       noxious blue-eyed madness 
of the dead.) For this reason, your ancestors 
                         wished to sail on a ship around a landform 
              to its southernmost point (Dear millennium, what we loved 
                          is written tenderly in the dregs of the earth.) 
Dear millennium, see how immigrants 
                         yearn for departure not extravagance, 
freedom with a notion of rootedness 
                                       or nesting. 
In doing so, this generational reimagining, dear millennium— 
you are cured of nothing 
                                       yet everything at once.

On Floriography

If you often find yourself at a loss for words
or don’t know what to say to those you love,
just extract poetry out of poverty, this dystopia
                            of civilization rendered fragrant,
             blossoming onto star-blue fields of loosestrife,
heady spools of spike lavender, of edible clover
                            beckoning to say without bruising
a jot of dog’s tooth violet, a nib of larkspur notes,
                        or the day’s perfumed reports of indigo
                                in the gloaming—
              what to say to those
                           whom you love in this world?
Use floriography, or as the flower-sellers put it,
Say it with flowers.
—Indigo, larkspur, star-blue, my dear.