Lavender silk rains from above,
but there’s no longer a God to worship.
Instead we decide to worship the sky.
Sifting through purple waves, we find stars waiting.
I think they are patient mothers.
You think they are lanterns lighting our way.
We both agree that we can hear them
mourning. They are only meant to be felt
like dry ice filled with dying matter.
The separation between stars above
and ground below is little more than wind.
The sky sends a phoenix and a dragon
for us to behold. The emptiness swallows both
and spits out a new color that is sharp
at the edges, but burning at the center.
Shifting under our feet, the world
molts and we accept it. Cracked dirt gives way
to rising lakes. We try to name creation,
but only your tongue moves.
I am silent.
A Sage of Dreams
-to Li Bai
I love wine more than myself.
A red river like blood runs
through me as it ran through
you. When my mind fills
with the metal of war, I can empty it
into a cup. I don’t much care
for sitting with flowers and trees
on nights like this, but there’s comfort
in the moon. The moon’s light
embraces the dark and creates
a shadow. I turn towards it and imagine
that you’ve come to drink. I raise my glass
to you, and we make a toast to the moon.
There is no singing or dancing, though.
Spring has vanished and taken you
and your joy. I’m too drunk to care
that you’ve left me. The soft grass invites
my eyes to close, but I try to look through
blurred vision to find your River of Stars
floating in a sea of pearls. Instead, I see
the moon and her light flood the sky
and merge with the night water below.
Now I understand why you grasped
for the moon with your arms.
In her light there is an endless sleep.
Can you tell me God’s name? I think I’ve forgotten it in the grass. Monsters take out their knives to carve out shrieking chests. I dream that each blade mourns for Sơn Mỹ.
“I’m alive,” says the child.
All of her ancestors were on the wrong end of a gun. She looks into my face, but I don’t demand anything. I’m tired of everyone preaching about freedom. It’d be better to go look at the headstones of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and some 500 villagers.
“Who are you?” she asks me.
My mouth won’t answer sweetly; instead I talk with my eyes. I try to say I am from a place of trees, passion, and fire. I think those are related somehow, but I can’t put it together. The sunlight in her eyes fades. My words can’t seem to stop the clouds from coming.
“You’ll be fine,” I say.
I look for some salvation, but there is no one left to ask. I turn to America, to God, to the masses. They all turn away from me, so I turn to the jungle instead. The trees offer me the compassion of fruit, but leave none for the girl. All that’s left is heat beating down on my shoulders and mud sticking to my boots.
The Tet Offensive
The vase went missing
years ago, during the hunting
season. My uncle swore it was lost
in the Gulf of Tonkin.
I think he lost it in Saigon,
but I let his unrelenting waves
beat against my side.
His furniture fled
from the mermaids
as they rode in on green tides
and into our beige walls, leaving
a taste of ash in my mouth.
The family portraits waited
patiently to be taken
by these thieves. Instead,
the paint peeled into sirens
and waited for something new
to happen; maybe like the extinction
of the dinosaur.
I’ve been thinking,
they should have bought
better life insurance before the war.
When the solar flares woke up,
they stuffed our lungs full of soot
and exiles. Our skin sizzled,
or maybe that was just the streets
trying to stop roses from blossoming.
Now those streets stretch on
and on and on. Everyone calls it space.
I don’t know if it’s empty enough
for that kind of name.
I’m pretty blue,
but I hear that’s the color of heaven.
I try to fit my words into infinity,
but I hear that science killed god.
I’m not sure what that means,
but I think I’m going to fly out to Mars
where no one gets lost in all-consuming blazes.
Everyone calls it the End
of Days, but I don’t know
any myths that end like this.
Instead I’ll trust my eyes, filling up
with crimson dust and an old sky
twisted into a slightly new frame.
Lucas Campbell is a poet whose greatest goal is to become a professional vagabond. He currently lives in Ohio, but will always have California on his mind. While he writes about a variety of topics, he has a special place in his heart for madness, wine, and myth.