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V Unsent E-mail, No. 5

An open book is also night.

Poetry | Straddling Convention
February 14, 2013

This poem is part of “Straddling Convention: The Erotic in Asian American Poetry,” edited by Ocean Vuong.

There’s the book I was meant to write
and won’t. Like my first solitudes, walking
the fields at our suburbs’ edge. Tramping onto

a small clearing, a fire’s remnants. Washed
out photos in black and white, men and boys
naked, wrestling with each other. Sucking

each other. All that’s easier. Not mine. And yet
this hot tropical light came crashing down,
so thick I could guzzle it. Like the belief

I’d never have a lover. That each women
in this alien story, not knowing these characters
or where she was, well, what could she

possibly see in my face lying beside her?
And so
I sat in my room, alone, in a house that wasn’t.

At night walked through rooms enduring
car lights from the road, sliding the wall.
And a woman somewhere else sleeping.

I played piano. The radiator hissed. Highlighted
long tomes with dialectics and delusions,
exiles and bibliophiles, serial killers,

samurai films. All the while someone was
screaming, nights like Duras’s Vice Counsul
in the Shalimar Gardens. Who shot up dogs,

beggars, lepers. White colonials. Weeping
over the stunning Anne Marie Strether.
Sometimes I wish

I wasn’t Oriental. Or, less quaintly, Asiatic.
My plain Midwestern origins, provincial Char Bovary.
Recent years I’ve written little. Friends

dwindled, as if I’ve moved elsewhere. I’ve
left the howling of dogs, Christ on the cross,
shoppers in downtown Hiroshima. A rice ball

carbonized to black seeds. Ash. Zyclon. Zones.
An open book is also night. Why fight it?
As if clothes of mourning were simply for widows.

As if the Old Testaments got it right.
Duras: Destroy, she said.
The silence begins—
I can never have you. That is what I want.

From The Last Incantations (Northwestern University Press, 2013) by David Mura.