When the Mountains Rose Beneath Us, We Became the Valley

Mai Der Vang


I won’t ask why the saola came
To you, father, or of the poacher who

Followed, but I ask of the country
You lost, the one I never had, unlike

The midwife who sketched birth
Maps on a girl’s body and found

A rainforest in her belly. I ask why
A body is born to save money

But can’t pay to cross hell’s ferry,
Or why snow tells us heaven

Is cold. A sunken missile maddens
Radiant as firework to the eyes

Of a tribesman, witnessing for
The first time. How did an ancient

Boy drown in a homeless river. I ask
Why the warsick warrior who hunts

With claws is hiding a poem. A piece
Of paper hides a garden. What

Harrowed you most arriving at the last
Minute to catch your brother’s

Final breath on the hospital bed.
Can a unicorn kindle the night,

Haloed by its flame, torches jutting
From its head. Live on. Ask me how I’ve

Saved us. Ask me to build our temples
So rooted, so stone, we won’t ever die out.