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Three Poems
Precedented Parroting


It was many years ago that I read this
I could not forget it
Because I could not forget it I re-read it

They rock themselves to comfort
themselves They scream and suffer
from insomnia and nightmares

They attack
those who try to help They self-
mutilate At the sanctuary a war

veteran and a cockatoo The cockatoo
was kept in a kitchen
drawer All her life
in a drawer Kept there
by a
What would you call
The bird is
bald She plucks
her feathers Her skin

is reptilian
bleeding Parrots
call one another

by distinct sounds My name
means strange stranger
foreign The cockatoo

shares it Parrots
traumatized pace
and rock They mumble

to themselves I return
to these stories I’ve read before
I re-read

I pace and rock I murmur
to myself I no longer
have feathers


1871  18 Chinese men and boys
   lynched They lived
      on a street not far from here in Los

Angeles 3 weeks ago
   in Brooklyn a woman
      on her own porch 2nd

degree burns Face
   hands body Acid She is Asian
      American In Texas a 2-

year-old child
   stabbed Someone
over what
   someone else
      termed the Chinese
   “birdbrained”  “mindless mimicry”  “mere

On Nextdoor someone offers
   paper towels seeks

I offer
   a list of birds flora
      seek sleep


                                                I am red
                                       and orange In my dream I have a blue
                                    head I am outside

                                                myself and inside
                                                my blue head From inside
                                                   I can see        a tree orange

                                    against a   fiery   red
                                                background It is fall
                                       mine the tree’s the coast’s

                                                the earth’s In my blue
                                                            head I am crashing  
                                                which means

                                                                                    I was flying


Feelings in A-Minor

            For Cathy Park Hong

White suburban sparrow
   Plastic picket line
      Flags stabbed into home fronts
It depends Day

The neighbor’s grass ever greener
   The American Miss Dream
      40 acres and the moon My own
crescent moon question mark

   pass the salted migrations
      It’s a cactus of a time


Teetering Under Telos

In the beak
of a bird
is a sunflower

seed weight
or energy? Effort
in flight

increases with increases
in load Light
as a bent

Refraction refers
to the bending

that occurs
between one medium
and another

Every memory
carries weight Pack
light Migration

may involve
treks across
metaphoric mountains
and through

atmospheric rivers
the angle

of incidence Excessive
effort renders

fractious Fatigue eats
at the mind
before entering

the muscles Lyric
are for the hearty

and hale (Think

of the endpoint
increases perception
of effort You

are an oriole This
is a roadmap

with anticipation

Knowing this

Do you eat or fly?


Barbara Tran’s poetry has appeared in Bennington ReviewThe Paris Review, and The New YorkerA contributor to collaborative works by the womxn writers’ collective She Who Has No Master(s), Barbara is indebted to Canada Council for the Arts for essential support. Barbara’s video poem “So Long” will tour with a Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network traveling exhibition in 2022.