Skip to main content

T H I R D L E T T E R : R E S I L I E N C E

Dear stranger

A naphthalene dress promises far more than sustenance.
Moths shun the vanishing white naphthalene.

Window to the bitternut tree, carefully shuttered, lets in no light.
Preservation by invincible scent. A new moon, dark sky, renga.

Blindness is winter darkening the pavement
until the road and my key are the same color.

A woman sighs on the terrace with a bouquet of velvet.
Fear of floating, her frail frame unlike her father's.

Warn a girl about the water when she arrives in the morning.
She fears her own emotions when she opens the verandah.

A wish to obscure herself by marrying an exquisite contrivance.
For example, in the dream, a hair broom or other luxuries.

What she desires is a groom or a pair of reading glasses.
I do not know whether flowers can be grown underground.

Signs of early poverty, the winter when I was hungry.
A woman bearing lilies asks whether lilies are in season.

She knows for certain a bird in the room means demise
or is it a blue card in the room, one with a signature.

Whether cut flowers can withstand you, she clarifies.
A tree bears white leprosy, a pericardium of snow.

At the close of summer, a moth leaves a tiny telescope.
It is neither a sewing basket, a spool, nor a chrysalis.

One is xenophobic yet always among strangers.
Raise your glass to birds and water, to flowers and a father.

We settle at the wide front windows to the sea.
No bathers are ever allowed out there.

The pier is broken after the last earthquake
chopped the sun in wood slats, zero resilience.

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of In Medias Res (Sarabande Books, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award. Her chapbook, God's One Hundred Promises, received the Swan Scythe Press Prize. Two new collections, Ardor and Erythropoiesis, are forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She lives and teaches on the West Coast, where she is a novice harpist.