Object Permanence

The light was dark, so I twisted a moth

between my fingers, and its wings

fell like shreds of paper. A pulp

lay underneath: dense, beating,

unmistakably the heart. It gushed so heavy


I thought it was sobbing, but it was

only drawing one last gust of breath,

chambers swelling and quieting

above the warm heft of my thumb.

The summer was humid and thick,

thousands of moths congregating

under the belly of a lamppost. In streets

and bars, men played Mahjong

or smoked until the room curled gray.

Their children slept upstairs,

cocoons among rolls of blankets.

I always wondered if they’d grow

to be butterflies, vast and tall, dribbling

hoops or masquerading down

blonde halls grinning and gold.

But for now, the cocoon is a house,

a series of nesting dolls, one

only breaking into another. The adults

spew cards from their fingers,

and Mandarin rolls from their tongues

like a toy sword: playful,

sparring. The room bubbles shining,

laughter a roaring brook

tremoring through this low part

of the valley, and they collapse

breathless against their seats.

Yet tomorrow is a new world,

and they’ll wake with heads low,

flowers sunken with dew. A vein

of football and the office

water cooler and thousands of small

unheard things rushing through,

refusing the tongue. Some will fall

silent and meek, eclipsing

themselves into a small night, enough

for one, an eyeball of light

rolling its own dance until dawn.

Thousands of songs and phrases

from the motherland breaking loud,

a terrain of memory sprouting

within an ashen, steeled face. A butterfly

of the dusk and dust.


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