A History of Domestication

Put your name in a hat, or a volcano:
Your sense of time is inadequate:

While I sleep my secret face faces the other way:
Grief is a heated iron comb:

The kerosene of grief, it doesn’t age well, it degrades:
Grief is a kind of time:

Sign your name. Become a series of signals:
            Holes punched through a rag. Make a space to look through:
            Your eye is a hole, too:
            Your iris constricts a telegraphy of the future:

Strange deliveries:
            The midwifery of anything here:
            Trade this hide for sod:

At night I dream of an infant made of flour and heat:
We dream of the castaway wind inside us:

At night my throat dresses itself in green feathers:
It does. You do:

More by Sun Yung Shin

Empty Ring, Nest Fire

My first burnt bark child—flung to the windless flames
Second sly child—dressed for weather, swan skinned

Serpents impress diamonds into my salt shoulders
This composed with the Devil’s black forked feet

He wants them back, sunk in hot white ink 
Tentacles; mother-hunger hundred-mouths; the drift and
     night-closures

Number one child, the jawbone I packed for you, axe-bright
Number two child, that hard set of hooves, elegant, horse-swift

Recall that one midsummer squall, us the color of water
The shock of hail: the sky astonished, dropping all its blind white
     eyes

Related Poems

Night Falls Like a Button

from your grandmother’s coat. You worry with your thumb the stranger’s page. Aging spine of the black sky, night-burps of the sleeping computer. Don’t listen to the judgment of your scraped knees. Night anchors in your belly button, your pubic hair. Stars snore safely, for years. Your smile in the early dark is a paraphrase of Mars. Your smile in the deep dark is an anagram of Jupiter. My worst simile is that I’m fancy like a piece of salami wearing a tuxedo. Waiting with a cone of gelato. Your smile in the dreaming dark is an umbrella for all the going, gone, & yet to come. Orioles come for the oranges you’ve placed in the arms of the architect. Which birds will you pull into orbit tomorrow? You try to sew the night onto your own coat, but it won’t stay. Too much memory weather, werewolf migration. You itch for the window’s shore. You row, the growing light rearranging your voice, the rain your lunatic photographer.

Divergence

Pristine the ash                                   no one has touched yet
before wind sweeps it along                         across the altar
                         dusting chrysanthemum and bees
before it is swept off again                
                                                              the way the body burns
            part by part
particle by particulate
                                                              particularly diverging
                                                              its tiny cinders
                        of moth wings.
After sound                                        there is no sound
                                                              a wolf sanctuary
           void of howling
                        headlights on the winding road
picking up snow
                                     a tuft falling on the heron
                         as her wingtips dip into water.
Evolution:    
                         bat wing
                         whale fin
                         my hand shielding myself from light
as I adjust
                                                              frames along the wall
barefoot on the black bookcase
                                     the heat of my footprint
             disappearing though no hand wipes it.
In taking inventory of what’s left
                         what the dead have cleared in space
             a question
                                      like the body of a boy
curled inside his dog’s bed
                                      a boy filling his own rice bowl
                                      until he doesn’t want to
anymore.
                        I want to be beside him in the dark
to hear his voice again
                                      to stop seeing him on the street
                         in the back row         
                                      of a classroom where I teach.
            Is there no end to this need
mushrooms inching along
                         blades of grass after a field of rain
                                                             the heron fishing
wings spread to lure prey into her shade.
In war they say We’re not the top species because we’re nice
In life I say Let me come closer
                                      even if it kills me.

Negotiations with a Volcano

We will call you "Agua" like the rivers and cool jugs.
We will persuade the clouds to nestle around your neck
so you may sleep late.
We would be happy if you slept forever.
We will tend the slopes we plant, singing the songs
our grandfathers taught us before we inherited their fear.
We will try not to argue among ourselves.
When the widow demands extra flour, we will provide it,
remembering the smell of incense on the day of our Lord.

Please think of us as we are, tiny, with skins that burn easily.
Please notice how we have watered the shrubs around our houses
and transplanted the peppers into neat tin cans.
Forgive any anger we feel toward the earth,
when the rains do not come, or they come too much,
and swallow our corn.
It is not easy to be this small and live in your shadow.

Often while we are eating our evening meal
you cross our rooms like a thief,
touching first the radio and then the loom.
Later our dreams begin catching fire around the edges,
they burn like paper, we wake with our hands full of ash.

How can we live like this?
We need to wake and find our shelves intact,
our children slumbering in their quilts.
We need dreams the shape of lakes,
with mornings in them thick as fish.
Shade us while we cast and hook—
but nothing else, nothing else.