is a 2016 recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. She is the author of the debut collection Poor Anima
(Apogee Press, 2015), which is the first full-length collection of poetry published by a Hmong American woman in the United States. Xiong's work has been featured in The New York Times, Verse Daily
, and Poetry Society of America
. More of her work can be found at khatyxiong.com
. Born and raised in the Central Valley of California, she currently resides in Gahanna, OH.
June 1, 2016
After We Hid Your Body I Climbed into Rain
few words find me on this haughty afternoon
your body too much to see & listen to
for instance the cardinal that lives nearby
I know his songs well — they repeat like the heart
each note bringing on the next day & the next like so
why does he call out? (do you hear it?)
am I the only receiver?
wet grass to spell out worms & migrant darkness
later the robins will come & so will the starlings
each drop lighter than the last
thunder no longer
the young pine trees twitch
the biggest tree now still
the wind comes & I see you sailing (all parts of you)
whorls of cells sick & unbelonging
who else to welcome you besides the lonely cardinal?
your plain fists?
even now as he sings I flicker & shut one eye
your smell wet with dew
fragrant & impending
My brother, Kue, had Stage 4 Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC); he lost his fight on June 4, 2014. I was living in Ohio at the time of his passing (he was in California). Just a few weeks prior to his death, there had been thunderstorms in Ohio, and despite the heavy storms, this cardinal that lived outside my apartment sang its heart out every evening. I remember thinking it was my brother's spirit who was fighting really hard. The day after he died, the singing had stopped; it was devastating. These days, when I hear cardinals, it's really bittersweet — all of it, fleeting. This poem is a response to that time. The significance of the title comes from the Hmong culture where we don't say, "bury the body" as it is taboo; we use the expression, "hide the body" as a way to protect and disguise the deceased from bad spirits. As a child, this notion always intrigued me, and it was particularly heartbreaking when my family had to "hide" my brother.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press.
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