k h a t y    x i o n g

Year of the Cardinal's Song (I)


The Scioto River touches me from the other side,
its slaps like that of a branch reaching for the weight
of a Cardinal's song whose red is the blood God set
loose—the kind he did not love, the kind he gave a red
lovely throat to sing & sing only of a body's tremors.

The paddling goose is a swan & the redwing blackbird
screeches in the weakening light—& tonight, every log
in the river is an ancient monster. The vultures are at it
again—spring that does not suspend nor discriminate
what crawls in the grass or in each fowl's craw, the night
stretching over my head wing to wing.

Mi Nus, we'll keep looking for endings, magic
snakes to guard the light as thick as earth—how
could we go wrong? Your skin is no longer yours so
here is mine. We can take turns filling out the body—
inflate the process—something to heal the haunt
of a heart as mother says—our floating city a wound
of fuchsia flowers, the womb of same color—

Even the watery shrine of Ganesh palms a secret
so flippant it is a wind unslicing, wordless like
the bellowing suture of evening frog cries—
no one to help blow a ballad for the graveyard
of stars that no longer houses you—not even the river.

Where then can we dare to eat & exchange touching
for seeing, grief for the red song beating in our bodies—
I am cold & in a hurry where darkness knows me,
the same not-same place you have flown & floated—
this river now black before me not as the Mekong—
not as anything. Not the moon rising. Not the air collected
around my feet. Not another word moving in the grass.


Khaty Xiong is a second-generation Hmong American from Fresno, CA. Born to Hmong refugees from Laos, she is the seventh daughter among her 15 brothers and sisters. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Montana, and is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Deer Hour (New Michigan Press, 2014) and Elegies (University of Montana, 2013). Xiong's work has been featured on The New York Times and Verse Daily. Her first full-length collection Poor Anima was released by Apogee Press on September 1, 2015. Currently, she resides in Gahanna, OH.

in issue twenty

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