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Caught in the Flood

July 2, 2010

by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and Reid Mitchell

Exactly when do I become a hero?
My torso’s torn and my head’s thrown
Into the river, my songs sing of sorrow.

My blood has sprinkled the corn rows;
Fecund sun shines as it has always shone.
Exactly when do I become a hero?

Someone, pray, shoot my head an arrow.
Right through the temple, I dread the unknown.
This river, nothing sings but my sorrow.

Let my eyes become a feast for sparrows,
Let oracles be burned into my bones.
I don’t care whether I’d become a hero.

Before, lithe maidens surrounded my shadows,
I loved only my woman but craved their breastbones.
Now, in this river, my solo company is sorrow.

Face down hell. You can’t face down eros.
Yet poets are shriven for their songs.
Exactly when do I become a hero?
Nightingales greet, I sing nothing but sorrow.


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Tammy Ho Lai-ming (website) and Reid Mitchell have been writing together for several years. Their creative works have previously been published in Admit 2, Barrow Street, Caffeine Destiny, Diagram, Fringe, Ghoti, Rhythm Poetry Magazine, Poetry Super Highway, qarrtsiluni and elsewhere. They are both involved in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

  1. steve
    July 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

    this poem has an ancient classic feel, as if translated from the Greek. to me it suggests someone lost between life an death, wishing for certainty, and discovering life is lost whether you die or simply live with memories and unrealized opportunities.

    some of the images are serious playful, like ‘let oracles be burned into my bones’ (what is the process for that?). the dual usage of ‘face down’ as a position and a confrontation is a microcosm of the situation faced by the composer of this song of sorrow. a haunting poem!

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