I starved for the shade of sugar, for a body
like a Bukharan coin. I danced in midair
on the stomach of a swallow, cantering
mechanically. Tianma, point to where
the war rolled & promise me a mask,
the hidden half. Wearing death in my
hair like a consonant, I came to a stag
with antlers for eyes. Its skin was made
of wind. Feed me eight immortals—the mouth
was full of diamond jelly. Hanging by a hair, I
fashioned a sheng from muscovite. The stag
blinked. I could hear a song inside its stomach,
the coo of a mule duck. I pulled my purple heart
until it was palillos, two pairs, & danced to “No
More Nightmares.” My knuckles kissed. I’ll never
blame my brother. There is a cave for every canine.
I wrote get a job on a dollar, hid it in my hand,
& held a man, my laughter full of window tint.
He made a mattress from the money. I wrote
the dosage on my wrists with a weatherproof
woman, got tempted with a termite. My body
was boiling. The stag became a cosmic swan,
ate pears from my palms, said I don’t need
your name. I had the sword to answer sin,
the hate to hurt a river, leave passion in a peony.
I dreamed of millet seeds & prayed for a private
grave. Tianma, my house of snow, no mask can
make us. I wrote a song for the sea & the swan
was silver, a daughter with a poem of her own.
Then I went away behind a hill where flowers
were afraid of me & birds spun in their bones,
freed Tianma from my half. He’s there, hiding
in his slow cloud. I come bearing cobalt,
bodyspray & discoballs. I’ll find another
friend, a horse or faith, & fold the swan
into an uchiwa. To war. To war. To war.
Chad Foret is a PhD candidate in Poetry, teacher, and editor of Arete at the University of Southern Mississippi. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2018, MAYDAY, Spoon River Poetry Review, and other journals and anthologies.