by Sophia Terazawa
Skyraider by Sophia Terazawa

The work of moving water is up to a tiny Panda named Panda. He stands on the roof of a shrine, the balcony, really, looking down at his little book, a manual for flying.



               Flap your arms in tight, little circles. Imagine for yourself a set of propellers.


He rotates his paws, which are sewn in acute angles from the fabric of his body, forward and then backward, a commanding force of blades.



               Notice the year is 1965.


A Douglas A-1 Skyraider lunges across Vietnam. The day is overcast. The Skyraider, a single-seat bomber, putters at higher altitudes; though the ejection seat tends to jam in the older models, which are made from wood, wire, and turbine; but, truthfully, it’s the pilot, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, who howls like a tiger at liftoff.

What compels him, the man in action, to leap from the heavens, weapons ablaze? The tiny Panda wonders to himself, mostly, about lies written to justify a war. He stands in the meantime, holding his manual to the last open page by the bottom of his rounded foot, which is white and stubby, just like his paws.

He sees in the distant field, a young egret settle in the grass; her long neck, bobbing to the breeze almost two-directional in movement. He shudders at the thought of being eaten by such a bird.

Can you imagine it, he thinks, flitting down the throat, such as that, coming out all skinny and hollow like a reed.

In his mind, the pins are stuck; his double axis, made of copper, fueled and medaled, stitched between the polyester of limb and body. The tiny Panda thrums, his paws spinning much faster and faster, at higher speeds than ever before. Suddenly, his eyes widen into black saucers like stars rung out from the wash. They twinkle with three white dots sewn to the top of each eye, as if, at any moment, the stuffed animal might burst into tears. He grunts, however, like a piglet, gruntgrunt.



               Jump when you’re ready.


A reenactment of war, in the dream box tucked away at the back of my mind, requires utterance, a kind of death rattle that pushes the water out, whichever way one might fall from a vessel mid-air. In this way, a manual is simply made in the manner of stage directions; for instance, diagrams whistle with birds flopping from trees; and, at this rate, his tiny face explodes, a dark nebula, into dust; the tiny Panda, undone; and, in this way, uniquely, I meet him in 1965, as he was drowning, near the base of my shrine, in a field of rice.

I’d been walking on the road nearby, thinking about the nature of time combined with the nature of air, for, in my hands, I was rolling up pieces of shrapnel into little balls of metal. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was only a compulsion I picked up from my boyfriend, the Moon, for, in the year of 1965, I was only April, blooming like an apricot or peach.

First, I found the feather, then, the tiny Panda, floundering in mud. He was lying atop a minnow, poor thing, which twitched erratically with the impact of plush, propelled at who-knows-how-quickly-he-was-ejected-from-the-sky. The tiny Panda had gulped in mouthfuls of salt and iron before I saved him from death. I could see the top of his round belly heaving under pressure. It was another attempt, I learned later, to fly.



A jump in the dream box. Year 2018. Summer. In Patagonia, my tiny Panda quietly unpacked his suitcase in our room. He had brought only two items for our trip to the southern border of the United States—a one-piece set of pajamas and a tiny apple.

In a few days we’d go to Nogales to see the wall between Mexico and the country of his origin. It would be awful; we knew this, an element of time against its impasse.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my tiny Panda begin to take small, delicate bites from his apple. During this pensive meditation, I pulled books from our backpack: poems of Chika Sagawa, a book on architecture by Ronald Rael, and a picture monograph from taschen, the collected paintings of Marc Chagall. For our trip, we’d write a book of love and combat gear; I knew this to be true, already, from our first night together at the border.



               blue (noun) \ blü \

               : An act of mediating sky, otherwise, bluer


               rose (noun) \ rōz \

               : Objects in motion, for instance, sweet equals life on Earth


I find myself facing a difficult past everyday with the poet, April, for my name is tiny Panda; and forever I shall be her tiny Panda.

A fig eater bumps into the wooden frame of our window in Patagonia, where we dream of trees forgetting to breathe; and, in my mind, I sense a brilliant red light, always blinking.

There’s a plane somewhere in the field, not too far away, made of paper. I must go there and meet the Moon one night. He’ll give a message by SMS to the poet, April, but that seems inappropriate to me, at this time.

She’s in karaoke, I’ll say, at the Wagon Wheel, with the locals.

What is she singing? He’ll ask.

Fleetwood Mac, and then, after some thought, Céline Dion. Cher. All of this is true.



April, in her past life, was a pilot. She took photographs from mid-air when her plane was steady, cruising over great islands and lagoons; and, for the most part, she liked her job but missed the Moon very much. She was a romantic, regrettably, her mind wandering for hours at a time.

Consequently, her therapist would suggest at a later age, for her to take 45 milligrams of Quetiapine a night, for a month, at least, to stabilize her heart, the mood of it, really; and, for myself, her psychiatrist, to take two tablets every evening before bed, with milk, in solidarity.



               hungry (verb) \ həŋ-grē \

               : The definition of character running to the sound


               itchy (verb) \ i-chē \

               : Not from lack of birds but their bones


How old are we today? Well, that depends. Sometimes you have no seams, and sometimes I’m three. Today, I think, I’m 400 years old, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. I’ll make it up in situations if I have to. For example, in 1964, I put on a pair of your pajamas and then walked out into the streets of Hanoi. There were bombs, everywhere, and I ran to hide.

Sophia Terazawa is a poet of Vietnamese-Japanese descent. She is the author of two chapbooks: Correspondent Medley (winner of the 2018 Tomaž Šalamun Prize, published with Factory Hollow Press) and I AM NOT A WAR (a winner of the 2015 Essay Press Digital Chapbook Contest). Her poems appear in The Seattle Review, Puerto del Sol, Poor Claudia, and elsewhere. She is currently working toward the MFA in Poetry at the University of Arizona, where she also served as poetry editor for Sonora Review.