from THE RIVER
Reprinted from Tung-Hui Hu, Mine (Ausable/Copper Canyon Press, 2007)
It is true that you act differently: you’ve started eating the fish that we catch. No—there is no need, the fish here are small and bony, more like jewels than food. And your eyes shine yellow now at night, like a cat’s. You once told me about a dream you had: floating in the salt-water, face down, tasting fish as the schools swim past. No brassière. You’ve eaten so many fish you worry you’ll sink, you worry you’ll spend years at the bottom waiting for someone to find you, to kiss you, to cut open your stomach—only then will the rubies and sapphires tumble out and let you float again.
But when you took the life of the boathand! A boathand is not a crate to be so easily discarded, one day I called for him and there you stood with a guilty smile on your face, I don’t even remember when we hired the boathand, perhaps he was a stowaway, either way he must have managed to swim ashore, I am certain of that. And it was just like you to take someone’s life, we are all capable of that, but how did you do it? Did you push him overboard while he was singing the cadenza of your favorite aria? Did you ask him to swim out to find your hat that blew away in a gust of wind? So I was upset about losing something I barely knew I had.
And soon there was no need to navigate at all. When we sailed through the mangrove trees we quickly got lost in between their roots: one would point one way and another the opposite, it was a maze of arrows and signs. It even seemed they were moving faster than we were, certainly with more purpose, speaking louder than us, they had so much force, divine right or presence. When we walked we took care to use as few footsteps as possible; the sounds were of parrots squawking off in the distance, the sun like honey poured from a jar, so slow you could hear it shift across your feet, for a minute perched on your big toe like a golden scarab, and then inching up your leg. In this time we spoke to each other so majestically that it would take a week to finish a thought. Like this: Lllllooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaammmmm. As I listened to a particularly long vowel I would close my eyes and steer in the warmest direction.
Tung-Hui Hu is the author of three books of poems: The Book of Motion (2003), Mine (2007), and Greenhouses, Lighthouses (forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Recent installations include digitally-mediated poems about crying ("The Last Time You Cried", 2010, with architect Vivian Lee). Hu is assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan, where he teaches poetry and film/media studies.