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Symphony in Flesh, The Girl in the Picture, Phan Thi Kim Phuc


Hungers are hard to kill when you’re bereft,
the child in the view finder, running from the guns.
By August, there are no good mothers left.

While you burned, we slept, exhausted hedonists,
waiting for a cure. Everything worked for a time:
karaoke night at the supper club, the magic mirror ball,
but hungers are hard to kill when you’re bereft.

In the South, my mother was fond of saying,
emotions are not a crime. The bourbon flowed
without regret. She endured the clans, the cleanse,
the ice cream socials, electric shock.
By August, there are no good mothers left.

I tried to help you. Everything worked for a time. I wrote
letters for a scotch-taped girl, a lark vivisected of her music,
the scarlet experience survived by tearing off one’s clothes.
Hungers are hard to kill when you’re bereft.

We use mother here to put a name to our collective responsibility.
Mummy, mummy in the gauze, who’s the fairest of them all?
Child in the burn bath, the doctors cut the infected pores,
cut layers of you away, but truth and pain wore off, and we forgot.
By August, there are no good mothers left.

Obscene voyeur, obscene victim of a war,
we run down the road together, hands flailing,
eternally caught in an anterior dream.
It’s hard to understand when you’re anesthetized, not cured.
Hungers are hard to kill when you’re bereft.
By August, there are no good mothers left.





She paces my vehicle, the coyote, outstrips it
with the joy of her striding, loping her stride,
hunger in the breakneck of morning. 

I must have been her, loping,
outpacing my partner, in the swim of him,
riding astride him, in the tousle and toss.

I must have left myself on the side of the road,
somewhere behind me, in the roiling brisk
that carries, that separates one in the drift.

I left myself behind on the roadside,
my I-must-have-this for the taking,
for the care, the crosses, and sacrifice, the appetite

that was to be fed, children crying, my mother in bed,
dying, asking for caretaking, sealed with the spoils
of hoarding in love’s tomb, her coyote.

I took my vehicle off road and abandoned it,
left it as the spirit must leave the body
at death, no longer

loping, the girl unleashed,
before leashing, unbridled before, sated
after, having eaten.

The hungry will take you, whether or not.
Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Devour me, if I let you.

I am calling you, calling, to roil with me
in the here-I-come, the ready-or-not.
I’m coming. I’m veering. I’m going.

I wish.




Just once I saw Crane, swimming strongly, but never again,
a freestyle arm arcing the whitecaps, a dolphin

escaped from the captivity of human form,
sure of its element, swimming toward home.

That last glimpse so defied the gesture of suicide.
He vaulted from the stern-side

deck of the Orizaba with such gusto, bidding
his indifferent audience adieu, “Goodbye, everybody,”

then disappeared over the stern railing to be parsed,
in Orphean fashion by propellers or sharks,

leaving his onlookers to ponder the merely mortal nature
of living on, as the unchosen are in the Rapture—

a young god sacrificing himself to the sun at the stroke of noon,
never to see fame wane or beauty expire.

I often wonder what it is like where he is.
Does succor ever reach the lost at sea?

Does he yearn for a chance to be
reborn, even as the rest of us muddle on provincially,

privy to the local gossip, a little bored but enduring on?
What is worse, the wish to be given another chance to live

a different life, even as one is living, or after one is dead?
That is the divine predicament: to ransom one’s life for some

other, better place. The Hasidimtell a story
about the world to come. Everything in eternity

will be just as it is here: our beds still our beds,
outside the same corridor, emptying. For Hart:

Havana, the Isla of Juventud, shots of Bacardi at the local bar,
a gratuity of horses standing in the cane after the storm—

and weather. I wish him good weather in eternity—Eternity!
I hope it is good there where he is.



BIO: Lise Goett’s second manuscript, Leprosarium, is the Tupelo Press selection from over 2000 manuscripts in the 2015 July Open and is slated for publication in early 2017, as well as the 2012 winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award in Poetry from the Poetry Society of America. Her other awards include The Paris Review Discovery Award, The Pen Southwest Book Award in Poetry, the Capricorn Prize from the West Side Y, the James D. Phelan Award, and The Barnard New Women Poets Prize for my first poetry collection, Waiting for the Paraclete (Beacon). Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Image, Mandorla, and the Antioch Review.


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