5 poems by Margaret Siu

Margaret Siu is majoring in Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas. Siu additionally has a certificate in Managerial Economics, Business Analytics, and Financial Accounting from Harvard Business School and Mandarin Chinese from the National Taiwan Normal University (國立臺灣師範大學). She is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Apricity Magazine (www.apricitymagazine.com), a Columbia Scholastic Press Association gold medalist magazine promoting the arts internationally. She is a recipient of the James F. Parker Poetry Prize, Brown University Book Award, multiple Gold and Silver Keys from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards for her art and poetry, and an University Interscholastic League Journalism 1st Place Award for her Features Story. Siu has also been published in Affinity Magazine and the Critical Pass Review for her work. Siu is an avid fan of Naomi Shihab Nye, Mong-Lan, and Lin Manuel Miranda–those who endeavor to narrate their cultures through verse.

 

Chariot-tearing (车 裂)[1]

hair– brittle
bones—whittled
by a blade named time, awaiting
a sudden notch
tied tethered taught
by five horse-drawn
coils of cold desires
at the neck and limbs
threatening the curls
of my ribcage, cavities
quake and swallow
the weight of
a long gasp
a breath—so violent and quiet

[1] An ancient Chinese torture method, present during the Warring States period of ancient China, also known as “five horses tearing the body” (五马分尸).

 

Hou Qing: Fall of the Qing Dynasty

Is there even a remembrance
of a gilded chrysanthemum,
delicately set on my maiden brocade,
before they set the summer palace ablaze?

This mourning, I watched
my hair fall beneath a scythe,
breath cropped thin.
Hailed majestic yesterday
stripped naked today,
by the multitude of poppies,
I bled silver rain—
fruit, richly swollen
sweet and overtaken
by western flies,
raping and sipping
oriental juices, yellow blood, and brick ruin,

Now, I am a skeletal palace.
Cold, lightly dusted, to be auctioned as an
austere antique, not lover, not man. And
it seems as if war baptized man reborn to beast
hissing the language of smoke and iron,

nothing of bright, twirling umbrellas
nothing of deep calligraphy strokes dancing
like silk ribbon dances, although
today, these ribbons no longer wear wings but
sleep in mops and rags of industrial cement floors.

 

Mirrors of Nanking

“I was among those taken”
-Wen Sunshi, one of the 60,000 raped

listening
to the collision of ash on pavement.
Footsteps outside scraping the earth.
Then the pounding of the door.
………….A scratching of slow brass from the vinyl
………….waiting for the climax of an aria.
………….Lifting the arm from the twirling disc, music
………….cuts.

Father opened
the door,
father
ransacked by bullets.
………….Ration sacks
………….smack the merchant’s table
………… fills with rice in the market.
………… A few grains, then a thunderous outpour

Bayonets sank their teeth in a
small body, a contest for the dogs, tossing
small limbs, baby soft limbs, soar limp
blossoming red in the December air.
…………..A small red kite whistles
…………..the wind piercing its way through wings—
…………..scarlet holes, scarlet flaps,
…………..crashes

The green men descended—
pinning Mother’s writhing body, screwing
screaming as their mouths and teeth
ripped at her breasts.
…………..Fish twitch on the docks
…………..as birds hungrily rip its tender flesh
…………..stripping away skin and scales, cold
…………..gills shuddering. Stops.

Blood, so much of it, too much of it,
made rivers down her naked legs, sticky,
pooling on the floor. Married
and remarried too quickly. So many, too many hands.
…………..Sunset stretches its weight and bleeds
…………..an unwilling earth, growing wetness with the dew,
…………..rivers flushed sanguine across
…………..hills and young creases.

 

How to fold a paper crane, 1955

They said: Sadako-chan,
when you fold one thousand paper cranes
— from both edges of Hiroshima
halved black in one day— the gods grant one wish.

Giving birth to a crane
takes leukemia-stained hands:
to press, to seal, to kiss
paper wrinkles, proof
her swollen nape and blue arms
are winter coats to be peeled off
by the promising warmth
of Okaa-san’s tea hugging
slipping down her throat.

It’ll take one at a time.

644 have taken flight

and here’s to say:
atom-bomb sicknesses are storms, weathered
softly on paper wings— the only birds
unsinged in thunderous eruptions—
lifting her on our backs, spilling
from hospital hands to open air[2]

[2] Sadako Sasaki was a Japanese girl who was two years old when an American atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. She became one of the most widely known victims of the atomic bomb. Sadako is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, stands as a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.

 

(and it is here)

call it “fraternity”
with a historical handshake of sixty-six years
between a drunk and a tiger.

You call it “fraternity”
with an august rainbow of sixteen hundred missiles
aimed at a field of sunflowers.

Yes, you give a damn about
a yam-shaped island—
who has her own tongue
her own protests
her own presidents
her own newspapers
—for the sake of your ‘middle kingdom’ pride
she still can’t just raise a flag
and say her own name under it.

No, it must be the Republic of China.

This is my Formosa:
Perusing the incandescence of bustling night markets,
absent-minded as the koi mirroring gold flecks on sidewalks,
Chasing after five obnoxious children
with plastic cups of boba giggling in our hands.
Wafts of freshly pounded ginsengs waft from shops,
the mahjong table is sticky with spilled fruits
and piled tall with magazines from every nation.
Sounds of Hokkien, Mandarin, and English
trace remnants of dong-gua tea on the edges of our mouths
and peel little pearls of long-yen from their cases
leisurely mounting a copper castle of shells on the kitchen table

—and it is here
I know all the while
“fraternity” is the tensity
before the sunset storms and after
sleepless tempests there will be

nothing left of the banyan tree we swung on,
the streets will be stilled and thickened with Beijing smog,
newspapers will crumple in stale gutters
and that is no place for summer children.

Missiles will rain on sunflower fields when
Chinese Taipei brazenly shakes Mainland’s hand,
raises her colors, and calls herself “Taiwan”.
What of “fraternity”?

 

 

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