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Lady of the Woods

Noy once told me about Nang Tani,
a spirit who guides weary souls wandering alone
in the wild. A Lao folktale I grew to believe in.

When it snows in October, I find unmarked trails
and retrace steps with closed eyes, moving
between trees that dig me into the hours.

Nang Tani pen phi, I remember Noy telling me
before she returned home. Being Lao, I never believed
in spirits until Noy shared her journey out of Thailand.

Now, I’m lost in the woods thinking of Noy.
Is she still in Seattle? Does she has her pastry shop?
In Minnesota, I gather what is gone, capturing a spirit.

Noy shared with me, believe when you are lost,
Nang Tani will appear as the person you long for.
My father appeared at the plane window when I left Thailand.

The, sun falls with each blink, autumn chills climb
my spine. I close my eyes to call Nang Tani,
and open them to see Noy on the other side of the creek.

Travelling home with cherries

The west winds push me back
off the edge of the Ten Mile
overpass with I-84 traffic running
beneath my New Balance.
Ponderosa Pines say their last rites
before falling to ashes
as Idaho wildfires engulf them.
I cope with thoughts of escaping
through dreams, as I run to the edge,
leap into taillights fading to smoke

in Boise. All my life, I wanted to leave or belong.

Sahtu—bless the cutthroat trout
giving me its life for strength
as I journey home to the lakes.
Howls from gray wolves
guide me through the Rockies.
The dancing wind of the Great Plains
distort my travel pattern in the blizzards.
Hazard lights blink as I drive with an offbeat,
the wind shoves my Silverado
into the opposite lane facing true north.

In Minnesota, I say sabaidee to the loons.

Before I wake, I’m in our St. Paul home
roaming with the smells of our childhood:
steaming sticky rice, roasted duck,
fish soup boiling on the stove,
the aroma of your adored apple pie.
Resting by the plate of cherries,
Noy’s love note expresses,
Khoi pen khong jao.
From behind, you offer a bowl of cucumbers.
I carry the bowl away before I can kiss you.

Sengarone Peter Vetsmany is working on his MFA in Creative Writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato and a Graduate Assistant for Asian American Affairs at the university.

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