My Dissent and My Love Are Woven Inside Me

I commune with the text by way of railing against the text

The molecular processes of you are never finished

I move through air in the early fall, a cooling spittle, high heat
      days are gone

When the troops leave the replica city, you see that its
      battlements are written in green

A Western style of defense, no birds, all men

Same plaza, white stones, black columns, no memory

You want to walk along the path meant for military vehicles
      and are denied

You want to try falling down where others had before you, and
      are unceremoniously denied

You wanted permission to travel to the mainland to see your
      mother

All of your desires were completely impractical

That is, you did not want to atone for anything you had done

More by Wendy Xu

Praxis

I had put down in writing my fear of the war

I too pined for pastoral description

The blue of the water was the blue of the world

Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction

A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space

A tedious fabric moving through time without malice

An act of oration, rebellion, inventory, fantasy

The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me

Imagine: you reach out towards the margin’s white hand

You do what your poems want and are clean

When you lay down your thorns you will be done

You do not take up arms against anyone

Pledge

The diagnosis was god, twice a day until the spirit
untangles itself. I took a trip into unscripted
days past, teenagers submit to the window an open
facing yawn. A walnut fell into the grave
of my loved one and stayed there beating patient
like a word. I was still unmoved by disbelief watching
my father mumble the pledge and hot white stars
he can’t remember. Nobody got hurt, some un-
fulfilled potential exits the room. Enter, knowledge.
Men came to dispel ambiguity and raced 
my intention to a hard boiling over. Each new decade
we stayed was a misinterpretation
of genre. We showed our teeth over the years to those
who would listen. In the face of the absent subject 
I felt my desire go flaccid. The leaves fell dutifully one
by one from their limbs. But I wrote to you against
all odds. Money. Paperwork. Love’s heavy
open door. Critique. Indignity. Vision and often
enough time.

Writing Home

An absence declares
its blunt self. I can’t believe the extent
of my luck, heard twice, like violets
in a bath of lukewarm water.
The city was my father’s though none
of its sweetness appears here living
before you. A strong instrument.
A blowing on the hands
and neck. A curtain almost open.
I inherited a stiff collar sewn
against loveliness where once
we must have walked freely into
the city square and gathered
there like an intention. Two lips bloomed
on my mother’s cheek. I felt
a heavenly peace. Here, the marker you
might have waited for: ancient
dough, rolled and fried. These days
the lyric’s sentiment floats
away from me. Like a river someone
forgets to bless. Memory, to memory,
to the dirt path opening
again in a dream. I have not been back
for so many years. I walk the distance
in my mind, the margins flowing by
like so much foreign water.

Related Poems

Mango Poem

Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove 
       behind closed bamboo. 
       Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess, 
before English class, describes their dance 
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world 
       eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,

she let the mellifluous fluids 
       fall on her assignment books. 
Where the mangos were first planted, mother, 
an infant, hid under gravel 
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother, 
after my mother’s aunt and uncle 
were tied to the trunk 
       and stabbed 
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off 
       fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness, 
       before I was born.

We left the Philippines 
       for California dodging 
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit, 
       thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos. 
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable 
       foods, waving passports in the still air, 
motioning for us 
       to proceed towards the terminal. 
Behind a long line of travelers, 

my sisters surround mother 
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered 
       fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik 
       billowing from the motion 
of airline caddies pushing suitcases 
       on metal carts. 

We walk around mother 
       forming a crucifix where she was center. 
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps 
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted 
before she gave birth to my mother, 

the daughter that left home to be a nurse 
in the States, 
       who’d marry a Filipino navy man 
       and have three children of her own. Mother eating 
the fruit whose juices rain 
      over deserts and cornfields.