7.06 / June 2012

Four Poems

Geography Lessons

“hic svnt dracones”

-The Lenox Globe (ca. 1503 – 1507)

In the country of your childhood, country of the crossroad, of the

winged creature at the hour of its extinction, you put a secret in the ground

to kill the secret & the ground goes black. Now the ground is buried

by blank snow, your mercenary name, & the strange, red swell of a barn

swallow’s belly, deranged by a bracelet of teeth: all thoughts you thought desire

erased through its existence. The starved months wheel overhead, weight

-less like a map that carries no weight but the country that tattoos it,

& as truthful. They know that the sun rides over the rider of all fantastic

beasts that surge to their world’s edge. They lie & wait, for you

are not the rider. You run riddled by the wide knife of your old name

& the snow of the country swallows the sounds it made. The swallow

goes black. The germ bucks up through the black. O germ in the frantic

husk of the feeling body. Beware. It’s war. Unfold. You learn fire & fire

learns you. It has followed you here before. It feeds you through

the year like a jet skein of mane through an original fist & chariots

from the canopy to snow to belly to black to the edge of your name.

Tongues of ash break off small bites of the map & its body. What’s left

calls itself firstborn, final leg, lone backbone the length of an arrow

shot, the mark flown, a badland, fauna played out in the dark.

Rough Husbandry

After you, I begin at the Natal Plum:

a babe with one hand
stuck in the terracotta O of my first jaw.

When I bite back the garden grows back. Then
everything does.

The red eye-fruit of the Mirabelle
tree does and I watch the tiny pome

hang itself, determined bloody bell.

A wasp drags its breast up the wall
of the stink-sweet Hosannah pitcher,

stuffed, half-taxidermied by lust.
Mimosa touches herself beneath a tree-

and you, still everywhere, slight pollen.

One thing races itself against its time
and then another, but like a pale twin

I keep my hand on the throat of every small death.
I scream when Carnosa compacta cannot,

think, Don’t come back. I do my best

to mean it, stripped down beneath the Hindu Rope
vine. I’ll be moving like a girl’s loose dread-

lock, like a cane of Wasted Ophelia, rocked
at the root in a bower of weeds.

Through a Glass Through Which We Cannot See

ourselves, a dead star is the only luminary

around for years. We see it a temple, then
sack it. I needed something, so I sang it.

O my Jupiter, magnetic war-dreamer who still
swings by & low-I couldn’t wear my red, red

storm on the bright outside for five hundred years.

I was a part, all surface, madly mirrored
across the world, just a stare, & kissing

back a false dreamer in the basement-shrine.
The sofa would make no amends for being an altar.

The moon, too, had to be hauled up from there; once
now forever a needle, she tattooed the sweeping rib of

sky with the shape of a young woman’s bark.

Once, I saw the alarming & cooled heart of myself,
the swallower & expert of damage but not of repair

in myself, & found new ways to give it all

away. Made a gun of two fingers & a thumb, jerked
to the throat, hunting & hunting & turning in the dark.

& O bright star of disaster, I have been lit.

Yearling & Armor

I am here, at last, dressed in plain mustard and tiger,
carrying on with my heart-claw and faulty calendar,
the old fetishes-spit and spice and the sea-loaded
behind my teeth. Another year, another armor,

though I was told otherwise. Another way of speaking:
What if the body had been a spell and he broke it. Or
a city, half-woken, and he blazed it. Inside, a voice
prays for the bantam mouthing off at the anti-dawn

to silence or become other, entirely: fire
-bird feeding off ash, or a photograph of somebody
brave. What if my face had been a sign so I painted it,
time’s direction rolling back and back like a maiden’s

domesticating spine, and what the body had in store
for itself-potential seeds and starry cloves stacking the inner
shelf-was pulled into the mouth of the ocean. So on,
another city, new, almost. What if I knew I would pay

all for entrance, to be entranced, or else to almost
always be. And if I let hot ritual wrap its arms about me.
Then another, and another. And felt the body move again
like a mouthful of sea, or a yearling in the armory.

Lo Kwa Mei-en grew up in Singapore and Ohio. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Crazyhorse, The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals. She lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.
7.06 / June 2012