Wednesday Nov 29

Debra Kang Dean is the author of Back to Back, a chapbook of poems, and News of Home and Precipitates, both published by BOA Editions. Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily; have appeared in a number of anthologies, including The Best American Poetry, The New American Poets, and America! What’s My Name?: The “Other” Poets Unfurl the Flag; and have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Florida Review, The Louisville Review, and Solo Café. Her essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in New England Review, Chelsea, Tar River Poetry, and Many Mountains Moving. She is on the faculty of Indiana University’s Asian American Studies Program and Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing Program.
Lady’s Slipper
It’s a pretty photograph,
I thought, decorative as
a silk rose in its neat frame
until I encountered
a photographer lugging
camera and tripod,
a bagful of lenses in muddy,
ankle-wrenching terrain—
roots and rocks, dips and stumps.
It had taken days of aimless
wandering, he said,
of simply looking . . .
as now I remember your wonder
at those first photographs
beamed back from Spirit,
and Opportunity. Far too driven
by deadlines, I stood
at your shoulder and stared
at the screen. What, I thought,
no moonsuits, no moon walking,
no one giant step as through
Spirit’s lens we caught
a glimpse of Opportunity
looking rather insect like,
we agreed, you clicking
slowly through the images
they gave us, in each
an eerie glow like the mercury-
vapor haze we’d seen
at 2:00 am, Dealy Plaza, 1975.
Mars, you said. That’s Mars.
The Wait
after Marc Chagall’s Waiting
Light touches the cow
the man touches, and
light is the man’s touch
on the cow whose eye
says, See the tether
I am, says, I know
what I know. Its eye
and inward-turned horns
point to the yellow
rooster, doused in blue,
whose quizzical eye
gives nothing away.
Without the rooster’s
tenuous hold would
the bride float away?
Over the village
below, a quarter moon
ascends. Eclipsed blue,
a bird keeps vigil
above a black cat
circling the well’s rim.
A woman wearing
a yellow blouse and
blue skirt has returned.
What she’s borne back
gladdens her pale horse
come to the barn door—
this much is certain.
Inside the village
hearth fires, long lit,
cling to blackened pots
worn spoons stir and sound.
Heat and scent and light—
everything rises.
The lost bride’s bouquet
won’t fade. Reduced to
gesture, is it her
heart or breast she means
to touch? I’m cold, she
seems to say. What if
she’s saying, Let go?
Set off by his dark
hat and red shirt, gaze
uplifted, the man’s
face is so pale. He
smiles, wills the light he
touches to touch her too.