at 11 Ramie St.

Lưu Diệu Vân

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I feel myself through the icterus backalleys of 2000 years of rented heritage
where people see politeness as an act of compromising residual dignity
a loud speaker overlooking a giant altar overlooks you while you overlook the lake
where cordial smiles are a clear sign of emotional defeat
where old men fight political battles on chess boards by holy water with limited field of vision and unprepared consequences
where dirty linen can be cleansed for one dollar per kilo with no permanent remnants
where people devour and pet the same specimens with no longterm complexity issue
where children mount miniature-rifles, ride toy-tanks on ancient streets plastered with ink-fresh banners advocating for peace
worship the preserved giant turtle like dear ancestors
charade a legend of refurbished independence-liberty-happiness
I flip the cement pages of virtue teachings
pose like a true tourist in her homeland
receive the freedom reserved for an outsider
and pretend to understand the suffocation of an insider
when handling out dollar bills to street beggars
the exchange rate of a devalued country proves too costly for most

there, in secret, rough ramies are being weaved into smooth fabric of life

{from Poems of Lưu Diệu Vân, Lưu Mêlan, Nhã Thuyên, Vagabond Press, 2013}

{artwork: Quan Steele}