Soliloquy for the Last Seed

— Michelle Phuong Ho

In the warm burgundy earth of my throat, I bury
the unbloomed.            To hide from predation
as all creatures do, I move in threes:         mind, body, stigma.

            A glass shard glints in the fold.
A monarch touches down briefly
                                                            on a blade.

I must learn to move as a pistil does: unfurling, slowly
from its silk, stems bristled         to snare
the dessicated sun.

Those of us who make it      out, alive
know bitterness is temporary
                           shelter.

And the mouth of a woman      who refuses
      to open
is bracing for      intrusion.

April to December, I refuse
      to open.

I won’t let in
another dead thing.

                                                Ma!
            Mother calls me
      to her bedside,         green floral
            altar               where I lay

                  my life down               and let her
                        lick hyssop, all over
                                                   and let her

                                    do what she will
                        to save me, to spare her
                                    another loss.

To slip                  from the hold—chrysalis
            hardened and smothering
                        I mustn’t look
                                                                  too sad.

Like a moth along the walls
of my bedroom         still, baby blue      I feel
            for a way                  out
of this countenance, this               unbearable house.

I said No.
I said I was cold.

Bruised, blue,
and river swollen.

My mother, soiled
spilled
            bitter speech.

Herself, a child
torn
                        and spat out.

I swallowed.

            It was wet season. Humid
                        in Saigon, drenched
                  in my mother tongue      I bled
                                    a stream I could not think
                                                   or stop.

            As though a shell I’d cracked
                  spilled all my blown seeds—
                                                      naked      and dandelion.

            And my small mouths of skin      bloomed
                        to sweet air, heavy
                                                and drunken.

Miraculous, how we remember
                        our first sleep—blood-rich,
                                                      catacomb,
                                                            drenched,

                                                vermilion.

            Our faces conjure        no one
as a way of speaking.

So sing      the true thing.

So many words, I think—bound
            in cloth, swallowed
                        like fireflies      like moths, fluttering

            through
an earth-shuddered
                                    groan.


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