In the Year of Permutations

- 1981-

Go live with yourself after what you didn’t do.

Go and be left behind. Pre-package
                              your defense, tell yourself

                                                      you were doing
             your oath, guarding the futility of
            
                   your corrupted good,

              discerning the currency of some.

                                   As if them over all else.
                                         Over us.
                                    Above God and Spirit.
                                        
                          You over me, you think.

This is no shelter in justice not sheltering with
enclosure of soft iron a sheltering of injustices
into an inferno flooding of your crimes committed
and sheltered by most culprit of them all.

                      These nesting days come
outward springs of truth,

                    dismantle the old structures,

their impulse for colony—I am done
                                                    with it, the likes of you.

To perpetrate.
To perpetrate lack of closure, smolders of unrest.
To perpetrate long days alone, centuries gone deprived.

                             To be complicit in adding to the
                   perpetration of power on a neck,
                            there and shamed,

                             court of ancestors to disgrace
              you, seeing and to have done nothing.

Think you can be like them.

Work like them.
Talk like them.

Never truly to be accepted,
                                            always a pawn.

More by Mai Der Vang

Yellow Rain

First, the sting
in your nose.

Then in your eyes,
a furnace flared

To hollow
your face.

Flies above
your empty sockets.

Maggots made
your split skin.

Another cow dies
from breathing

as you swallowed
from the same air.

How many days before
it wintered you gray

in this wilderness turned
makeshift-graveyard.

How many hours
before the lesions,

before your vomit
hardens the earthen

floor. Somewhere
a house ages cold,

no longer warmed
by the hearth

you once tended.
No one lights

any spirit money.
No one chants the way.

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,

Calligraphy descends
From their lips.

Infantry attack
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.

Dear Exile,

Never step back    Never a last
Scent of plumeria

When my parents left
You knew it was for good 

     It’s a herd of horses never
           To reclaim their    steppes

You became a moth hanging
Down from the sun

Old river    Calling to my mother
Kept spilling out of her lungs

Ridgeline vista closed
Into the locket of their gaze

                     It’s the Siberian crane
           Forbidden    to fly back after winter

You marbled my father’s face
Floated him as stone over the sea

Further    Every minute
Emptying his child years to the land

You crawled back in your bomb

           It’s when the banyan must leave
     Relearn to cathedral its roots