We Were

churned to agitation. We fastened a cloak round
the nape of nation. We have clustered to bear
the weather. 40 jewels for 50 thieves.

To spackle our sorrow in ochre,
to carve a sun from a carcass of grapes.
We will knead the wine’s mother.

We will sip her from a lake. Three
gold eyes above a trellis.
Three gold eyes bespeak.

            midnight seed

A thousand eyes for 50 thieves.


Copyright © 2021 by Anna Maria Hong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

I drafted this poem during the summer of 2020, when COVID-19 cases in the United States reached 20 million, anti-Asian violence was surging due to racist rhetoric, Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality mobilized across the U.S., and the news was rife with corruption from the White House and Republican-controlled Senate. I had been writing a series of fantastical poems, channeling a kind of new myth figure and energy that harnessed itself to feelings and thoughts associated with these terrifying, demoralizing, and heartening events, resulting in this poem and others.”
—Anna Maria Hong