Mai Der Vang


Go until there’s no more galaxy,
Until all the going is given

And I touch green as sneeze,
Always cranberry, a crow upstairs.

All I have to do is clutch
This hour’s pulse, then flee

The palace mad as honeymoon
After the king gives me back

My history in a homesick bowl.
Sign hello fox. Hello silhouette.

Go suck a cough drop in my
Sleep to wake my throat.

Go eat a penny to feed
Economies fat and steep.

Go until there’s no more road,
Until landing at winter’s dust,

The fog’s flame, pleated,
Lips of an unkissed book.


After Reina/Madonna, art of Martín Ramírez

I saw you first as a man
Whoe left arm was the brand of a tree,
Your frail stretch

No thicker than fingers on a gingko,
A body
      Meant for downfall.

But then you turned over
And became a tree
Whose branches were the arms of a queen,

Spanning before me
Like a bridge, earthen silk,
                Love that works
                Without a thumb

I took to you to my birth,
My almond song, chrysanthemums
Spun into corona and gold.
Before morning, I gave you the memory of blossoms,
                                                 Carried your scapular weight.

You learned me, I did not write,
But my hand did,
I did not walk, but my feet did. 

When fire set itself
To expired sleepless nights,
I uprooted you from a grave

                           To mark myself mourned.


Mai Der Vang, a first-generation Hmong American poet, has published poems in the Collagist (forthcoming), the Lantern Review, the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement, and Paj Ntaub Voice. Her poems have been anthologized in Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora (University of Washington Press, 2013) and How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011) where she served on the editorial board of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. She has completed residencies at Hedgebrook and is a fellow of Kundiman. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Columbia University.