Sophie Henry

After Sally Wen Mao’s ‘The Diary of Afong Moy’


when the poacher knocks on my door, arms 

            crossed with collections, I do not hear 

his tranquilizers hit the window panes, I am high

            on the chandelier, body

slung over crystal droplets

when he pierces the glass with shouts, tracks 

            mud on my floors, I fork my tongue

to guide him to the precious porcelain, 

           dusted with my family’s ashes

watercolors of curved mountains and rivers

           while he slits formal words with his breath

praising me a good American

           I dare him to claim as much as he can,

as I rock back and forth

           in epileptic flashes, show him how to

hide from thick Japanese boots, how to

           muffle your mouth in embroidery 

while your sisters are being touched a few feet away,

           I show him rivers running out

to ruin prayers, lifeless pupils dropped

           into shot glasses as aphrodisiacs, 

I drop down to his ear to ask, do you still

           want this? when I promise every hand that smears our ink will die

           in ownership and debt, splintered

in black rot like this, I say, fingers furled, crippling

           his hands in stone, this insolvency clause, my final sale.