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Some days

we are

bombed harbors,

then silence.

Other days

I speak, my voice

a snake, cursive

in deserts. A father

and son. Two

countries. Flags whipping

in wind. I know the words

I need


to whisper. Words

keeping us

apart. My shirt twisted

in his fist, he tugs

at me. Back turned, I shake him

off. My torn

sleeve, a white cloth

he holds up. Shots fire

from my mouth. Stop. Tell me

what you want

words in our own war story

he can’t


answer. My son

seized. Ancestors

trapped. Grandmother walks

on boards, carries

my baby mother over mud and horse shit

of Tanforan. Wraps her

with blankets in Topaz—their sand

prison. Images

sizzle in his eyes. Light forking

the sky, Mother

blinks. Like my son, she

doesn’t know


the words. Bedtime

stories, a nightly

clash, my hands guiding

his head, forcing him

back to the page. Rain

on tin, hum of songs, her father

missing. Empty deserts. Shudder

of flags. The mouth and its silent

dust. Between quiet

and the noise, I reach

the edge. Almost


from SeizeFind more by Brian Komei Dempster at the library

Copyright © 2020 Brian Komei Dempster
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Brian Komei Dempster Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.