Jenna Le

Đi Với Ma, Mặc Áo Giấy

My dad says, “If you walk with ghosts,
be sure to wear a paper gown.”
This proverb, which old folks pass down
to children in Vietnam, is close
in meaning to the adage “When
in Rome, do as the Romans do”:
I gather ghosts are known to glue
together broadsheets, fountain-pen-
smudged notebook pages, dollar bills,
and napkins browned by coffee spills
to make their everyday attire.
I wonder: do they like how paper
rumples, crinkles? Or the vapor
newsprint reeks when set on fire?


Jun Fujita,
of the Chicago Daily News,
photographed these massacred men
in their dark suits:

with pale necktie askew,
uplifted waistcoat
baring a white midriff;

with hips and knees flexed like a frog’s,
pale bowler hat placed over his heart
as if to prevent his spidery life-force from escaping;

lying on his stomach;

in fetal position,
head resting on a chair;

several more
in a tangled heap
at the edge of the frame.

Dark bloodstains
trail away from the murdered men’s heads
like fantastical antlers.

Four wooden chairs cluster nearby, one toppled.
They look quaint, innocent,
not unlike the chairs
in Van Gogh’s bedroom at Arles.

Would you believe
Fujita, when off-duty,
wrote and published
stylized poems about
dried leaves and snow?

Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), an Elgin Awards Second Place winner, voted on by the international membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition. Her poems appear in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Verse Daily, and West Branch. She has a B.A. in math and an M.D. and lives and works as a physician in New York City