Mai Der Vang



Allied with the Bees

These people have been living in these areas for all their life but they have never heard or experienced something like this before. Bees and honey are part of their life; they and their ancestors have traded honey for salt, clothes, and other goods for hundreds of years.
– Letter to the Editor by S. Yang, Long Beach, April 6, 1984


Tell them, child, we have hiked
These hills without shoes, long
Enough to hunt alongside the bees,

Memorizing the bend, pulse
Of their voices when they
Go dream inside the trees.

We have been crowned with
Syrup of their toils so that our
Syntax might awaken to know

Its full range, compassed to
The North, pristine as a nomadic
Butterfly. Tell them, daughter,

We watched as they buried their
Queen, folding her into cashmere
Of her wings before swarming

The body toward a fire of stars.
And for days, the forest keened
A shadow lullaby. And for nights,

We listened for the bees only
To uncover the hurried hush of our
Own stranded feet, falling forgotten

As collateral beings. Tell them,
Me ntxhais, we are not misled in
Our anguish, what happened

To the bees also happened to us.



A Daub of Tree Swallows as Aerial Ash

Most serious charge, however, relates to report of massacre committed on May 15, 1985, in which “approximately 5,000 civilians were ordered into a cave at U.G. 332 820 and were ‘gassed.’ ” These civilians reportedly were captured “at U.G. 332 803” on May 14, following a May 13 battle in which resistance fighters suffered heavy casualties at hands of Vietnamese and Pathet Lao soldiers… Some 25 intended victims reportedly escaped being driven into cave… Our efforts to date do not enable us to confirm any details of incident.
– Cable from the U.S. Embassy, Bangkok, to the Secretary of State, September 3, 1985


All over threnodies
of dissected    water

Inside this cavern of scars

Had the barn
owl been more accepting
to tell

Had your sonatas petaled
from below

the walls of this
resounding abyss

Questioning what yielded
in your
conduit of husk

they cannot be sure of
details in preference

to dismiss in fear
of the knives
sewn into
their bones

They offer      no place
for you    but here is a place

to rest your
evening birdsong

a river of windows

under a trellis of bells
to nourish

in silk leaves and a
harvest of      wild pears


Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland, winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, her poetry has appeared in PoetryTin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. She teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Fresno State.

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