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‘​Redacted from a Know-Your-Rights Training Agenda—’ by Cynthia Dewi Oka​

— Nix Thérèse

Even in its winding, ‘Redacted from a Know-Your-Rights Training Agenda—’ has a strong internal compass. “Training” posits a future sense of empowerment, yet it’s one that’s rehearsed with a population that’s already afraid to overstep. When does learning flip to doing? There are still questions and experiences pinging in the back of the head, aka the redacted that only you can hear. The flow reminds me of a friend’s practice of “morning pages” where she channels her anxieties and early thoughts to the page in order to process them more soundly later on. Here, the redacted goes beyond communal to unlock the gritty personal. Beginning in fact (a potholed street in Collingwood, New Jersey bears the name Atlantic, after an all-consuming body of water) allows us eventually arrive in a more intimate space: inside the car speeding down the street, I believe I am safe from being halved. This speaker knows the trauma of migrations, both forced and otherwise, yet it doesn’t completely impede their transport. They still have to make way while brushing against the possibility of their demise, and the landscape’s ripe with new turns.

The recurring moth imagery slowly announcing itself in the second half shrinks the scope of the wariness re: being hunted, yet more intensity piles on with the magnification. I don’t envy the speaker who’s forced to translate “resign from this factory job or you’re fired” to their father. It’s obvious that switching can be a violence: how do you hold the younger white boss’s cool indifference and the father’s “vista of small bones” at attention in the collar? How do you relate to both the pitch and the shatter? Even when it comes from another, delivering the blow is never easy. Language is clearly unbalanced, but aren’t we compelled by the false equivalency of this moment? Even as you translate, you lean with more care into the familial end while silently evicting the other. You notice that grief “ate him like an army of moths from the inside.” In comparison to the flood, the father bides solitary. One moth destroying would be calculated, but the moth-swarm feels reckless as it plucks from the already threadbare.

We’re drawn back into singularity when the speaker mentions how one got trapped in the car with them: it will die, but I do not want to practice fluorescence alone. The moth becomes much less imposing when the speaker knows that the confined air of the car can smother it while they remain untouched. I can already almost hear the repetitive clink against the window as it roots for a source of light that also allows breath and span—the obsession worth the effort. Fluorescence means highlight, means center, means bright enough to reel. It doesn’t really know how to play small—even sunburnt-vulnerable skin breaks under its gaze—so I love this small power-play that the speaker emits. Yet “practice” already draws the lasting effect of this into question, and the last moth image falls in line: Tonight, the night after, the night after that, for as long as the distance between a god and a pothole, a moth’s flight will spell: // ‘They’re coming for you.’ Few things in this landscape are free from being impacted, even us.


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