Mai Der Vang

Matriarch

She points at the television as if she could translate
Rocky, make sense of Rambo. She is camphor blouse,

Grandmother, keeper of jars for flamed cuppings.
She knows where men have been, those falling into

Tarnished landscapes, sinew machine built from
Fire as if coal were burning their insides. Rocky’s arms

Draw skin-drip of diamonds in the meat locker. Rambo
Is carnage cloaked in her homeland mud. She knows

Them as one, their howling stare before they yield,
The way their eyes turn lunar, rogue as dead stars

Thrown back to the graveyard in heaven. In the
Afterwar, there are no more terraces, no more hills,

No hand to sweep the hearth, but always, there remains
A man omitted, and that she knows as well.

Mai Der Vang’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review Online, Radar, Asian American Literary Review, The Collagist, Weave Magazine, Apogee, among other publications. Her work has been anthologized in Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora. She is co-editor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology, a Kundiman fellow, and has completed residencies at Hedgebrook. She received her MFA in Poetry from Columbia University.
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