Southern Capital


from Nanjing, we trekked
south.  I dipped my hands, waded
to my knees in the

Red River Valley. 
It smelled like a space whose air
forgot how to move:

like the bruised fruit she
won’t eat but can’t throw away. 
Spring wind trims blossoms.


from Nanjing, we looked
south. They cut oaks, made bonfires
of men, lay waste to

rivers of rust by
the squadron-full. Then, they
gnawed peaches with

rotting rat teeth; her
peach tree, they slit open at
the waist, like gutting

a dead deer. Old pine,
gnarled limbs under fire,
curled in hairs of smoke.

Flowers, too, demand
burial. Summer
sweeps mass graves in clay.


from Nanjing we fled.
My ears ring with half-truths, skins
of comfort, blindfolds,

while severed hearts float
like fireflies down the Yellow
River. I reach for irises

I touched a stillness
like the stillness of driftwood
resigned to the waves.


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