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Final Dispatch from Laos

By Mai Der Vang

Concerning our hollow breasts,
Lice factions multiplying in our hair.

Concerning our unused stomachs,
Molars waiting to chew, taste buds

Obsolete. By then, we won’t remember
We’re alive. We’ll be the soil covered

In mines. Concerning last night’s
Attack, seven dead, five injured, four

Gone missing, three arms. Concerning
A forest in combat, alliance of trees,

Countercoup to the coup, concerning
Dominos. They’ll arrive to collect

Our eyes, but the vines will have eaten
Us up. As for our feet, we left them behind.

And as for our heads, they went foraging
For roots. With regard to shrapnel jutting

From a boy’s leg. An old man lured into
The fire by his dream. A woman cradling

Her intestines. With regard to orphans.
A sweet leaf unable to father any txiv.

A hand without. We are yet done,
The leftovers ever still waking

Inside the smoke of a hole.


Note: The word “txiv” means both “fruit” and “father” in Hmong.

Added: Thursday, May 31, 2018  /  From "Afterland," (Graywolf Press, 2017). Used with permission.
Mai Der Vang
Photo by Andre Yang.

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 Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

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