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Two Poems
Mutter Tongue
We = I + person + gate
—Inscription on the side of a building


          Through the palace where mirrors

                      Refract through water
                                                  What desire I know                      other than another’s

                                                                                           More conducting than my own

Through the Hall of Perfect Brightness.

                                                                                           No longer do I move as a form of exacting
                                                                  Staging the silhouette of a subject.

          Family and home is the same and set with a pair of wings, seemingly extraneous

                      As in, dictation

                                                       A sort of border relic                      bored of wings.


                      I want to inhabit
                                                                                    My viewer’s eye

Reverse rubric of migration

                                                                      Twice moving the blue light to descend the blue stair.

                      A silhouette offers the illusion of depth
                                                                      For red poppy waves

                                                                                                 (Flat for centuries, robed with hats)

                                                                                                                    This series of anonymous locks.

                                                   The rigor of the link is an artifact (Mei-mei Berssenbrugge).

          “We” of goldly-layered metaphor
                         Measures distance by body to border, catapult or
                                                                                                     Battle axe, and poisonous arrowheads.

When I stepped out of the airport, hot air like wide swaths of relief pinned my dress to my body.


                                                                                     Continued projection

            To the parting wall breaks down
                                                                   Brick by brick reassembled at another end.
                                                                                                                                                In hindsight
We arrive at preexisting ends
                                          Each time the word is written.
                                                                   The character for gate or door closed with a hook. 

Some resistance
                           Rehearses the tongue as if borderless in a palace, I often approach

                                                                                                                           To mimic what is seen
                                                                                     At the window dreaming
                                                                                                               (One speech for another)

                                                                   Like building temples on the sites of preexisting temples,

Some links (bricks sprouting green vines, privy to erosion)

                                                                                                Could cloud or outpace

                                                                                                                                                A prehension.


Mission to Asia
“Narratives’ reference may seem to belong to the past, but in reality it is always contemporaneous with the act of recitation.”
—Jean-François Lyotard


I was going of my own free will
                                                                  Whereupon they said I was an impostor

                            At last they gave the command so I might be granted as sharp and cutting

As my sword to speak through the midst of them
                                                       A population I had limited contact with broader than other people

               Between the eyes and across the cheekbones

                                           With truth as guide to give them a good gnaw

                                                                                    And their eyelids raise up to the eyebrows
                               As if I were stepping into some other world


                      He collects young girls from the people who have only one foot
                                                                                                          Ugly folk without heads

Who have eyes in each shoulder to be mindful in the midst of their enjoyment
                           There ought to be no stinting of money

               Which is so broad it will cover all the body when purchasing weapons

                                                       They put grass in the wound and bravely flee before them

                                                                     Though they always come back to the matter at hand

                           They also made us expound on the women

                                                       For the defense of souls and bodies and liberty and other possessions


When anyone dies they mourn wailing
                                                                     I sweated in a loud voice
                                                                                                               From the fright and novelty of it

                           And then they are free from paying taxes until the year is up

                                                                     Of how to wage war against them
                                                                                                          By picking up the skin of this culture

                                                                                                  What they may ultimately do we do
God forbid
              If they become sole rulers they are little men and dark like Spaniards

                                                  They eyed us as if we were monsters for we were ambassadors of God

                            And sometimes vie with each other for incantations


                                                                                                  They search out men in the camp

Whom they accuse of being responsible for the cold
                          With human heads but the faces of dogs they would speak two words

                                                                     Above every other name we came across many skulls
And bones of dead men like dung
                                                                                                                   For he did not know the words
              And the third they would bark

                                                       And without delay
                                                                                                  These are put to death consequently

                           They have a small opening for the eyes
                                          For their sorcery

As for the ocean
                                                       They could not grasp that it has neither limit nor shore

This poem collages selections from three medieval travel narratives (two found in Mission to Asia, edited by Christopher Dawson, and the third entitled The Travels of Sir John Mandeville) as well as from the Encyclopedia of Asian American Artists, edited by Kara Kelley Hallmark.

Rebecca Liu’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in VOLT, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, and Apogee Journal. She lives in Austin, Texas.