Stone Telling

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Love with the Soldier

by Ching-In Chen

1.  in the field of turnips
tunnels         on odd days

         our fill of sunlight
third afternoon after the damp set in

I looked toward the sea              a woman with bonewhite
                           hair to her ankles
                           wrapping herself around
a uniform pink                                                            2.  Her back a plain I made smooth
                                                                                with my trowel.
                                                                                A thin trench there, my hand
                                                                                passing what could be still
         with exhaustion      she names she                        valuable.        Soft, pliable, my
                                    rattles sides of                                  soldier.
canyon we
         heard fractures      dirt furious                                        I looked under the cover,
in its jaws we hurt  to look with our straight-on eyes skin hiding the names she had hoarded
                                    her unfiltered echo                   and could not let go.
                                    rising across the sea                 I turned her inside and out until
                                    knocking on our tunnel door by night rivers opened in dreams.

3.               I
collapse walls of names
         tumble down sewage
                  life sweated out
                                    your last green kiss
         rattle against         a set of dead
teeth  or       scamper

down insides of that closed
throat         I extract
         nothing but
                 door of eye
we couldn't get to open no more

                 formless body dissolving in the napalm

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press). The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a Kundiman and Lambda Fellow and a member of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Macondo writing communities. A community organizer, she has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston. Ching-In is a co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press). In Milwaukee, she is Cream City Review's editor-in-chief and involved in her union and the radical marching band, Milwaukee Molotov Marchers.

Read Ching-In's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!