Mai Der Vang
Refugee, Walking Is the Most Human of All


So long to the papaya       kingdoms

                 Of olden mothers,


                        The shepherdess igniting

Peels of bergamot.


         Grief of chalk

              Scribbles the form of an



                Consider     a pillow of mortars,

How the rubble of hair


Weighs dense together

             With the pedestrian heft


             Of never coming back.


Home is a sleeping whale.


               Consider an armor

Of feathers, not to buffer          the body from shelling,


         But to be hoisted

As a skyless meteor fleeing for


                            An elsewhere chance

                                                          to land.


You will come back

To rescue your footsteps.


                  Towels spread on a road

As if forming:            timeline

                                       of cotton against


                                                  A pillared topography.


But this, the clap of hands in crisis

         Shoveling out evacuees.


                               Empty your opera

                                       In the howling of the sea.



Found In Volume 47, No. 04
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Mai Der Vang
About the Author

Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, she served as a Visiting Writer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her writing has appeared in PoetryVirginia Quarterly ReviewGuernica, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere.