I Am the Whole Defense
Mid-1700s, Southwestern China
Lightning is the creature who carries a knife.
Two months now,
The rains hold watch.
Statues bury in teak
Smeared with old egret’s blood.
I feel the pulse of this inferno,
Tested by the hour to know
That even torches must not waver.
In the garrison, I teach boulders
To trickle from the cliff.
My fallen grow parchment from their hair,
From their lips.
But my musket knows.
They scale the sides
Yet I tear the rocks.
I am not wife, but my name is Widow.
Let them arrive
To my ready door,
The earth I’ve already dug.
Copyright © 2016 by Mai Der Vang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.