Letter to America: Two Poems by Karen An-hwei Lee

Letter to America by Karen An-hwei Lee

Two Poems

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Dear America, Sanctuary of a Post-Human Exile  

Dear America,

Everything here is carnal, souls vetted to survive
fire-bombings, night raids, annihilations of love.
Whom shall we trust, what camaraderie exists?
Truth or dare. No one creates beauty here; desire
nothing. War is no beautiful thing. Not a curative.
Truth: girl once said to me, your body is designed
to heal alone. Algal sea fog rolling every noon is no
remedy for nostalgia. No, this is not a pleasure—
nothing is holy in this world. Dare we inhabit
the post-human, a fractal ebb and flow of lymph
and laser. Bless our given bodies without reprisal
or regret: borders we crossed as youth, invisible
at a distance when the fog lifts: no longer home.
Toxic compass rose of exile, carcinogenic, blooms.
The land under our soles exudes a bluing perfume,
notes of a failed paradise, of undocumented flight
from zone to sanctuary: exiles fleeing to the allure
of citizenry acquired by sea, by flood, by fire, by war.




Dear America, Love

Dear America, love –

Before I fell asleep last night, a double-star conjunction
shone so blindly, I fished it out of the west

with a rag of spider silk lost by the woolly bold jumper.
Please fix my bandwidth
                                  so I do more sensible things.

Your skyscrapers, after falling, are going up, jagged
               scapes in a nanosecond,

scaffolded and reconstructed as smoke. Millennium
of burned, hairless marigolds,
                    of cataclysmic seaquakes, grenades

and dazzling insects not lasting the night: we grant ourselves
permission for intimacy, for freedom to choose

whom we love while on earth
                            even if we do not love whom we ought.




Karen An-hwei LeeKaren An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo Press, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo Press, 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande Books, 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis Press, 2017). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.  

Read poetry by Karen An-hwei Lee previously appearing in Terrain.org.

Header photo by Ma5tt, courtesy Pixabay.

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