Elegy for Red: Zuihitsu by Cynthia Dewi Oka

Elegy for Red: Zuihitsu
Cynthia Dewi Oka

Paper, spark, mouth. The closest I’ve been to a star.

“The last thing addicts are afraid of is death,” writes poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

The neon stiletto in a triple X store window stabs the cornea. Something akin to agony breathes me through its unblinking frame.

As a child, I watched desire morph into sentence; a thin, long wire around my father’s heart.

What the mind wears in readiness/defiance of its own disappearance. Shroud. Banner. Bandage. The bull of the world raises its horns.

At sunrise, before the news, Allah hu akbar sailing through windows and rooftops, announcing safe passage through the realm of illusion.

Angpau of salt-veined dollar bills, also known as notes from the underground.

Cardinal’s plume on a bed of a frost, Chinese lanterns bobbing on the River Styx: the immigrant’s refrain pulsing toward loss – borderless country, Promised Land.

Lipstick smear. Centuries. A dark girl parting a dark wood.

The color of you shall go no further. Where, in the underbelly of the Wolf – for all cities are wolves – even rust is contested terrain.

Intermission. The way closed eyes recompose light.

I am waiting with my staff at the edge of the Poem. I have followed a cloud called God. Behind me, the armies of a king I could not slay.

The king I loved.

Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Dinah Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in, among others, Terrain.org, Kweli Journal, Apogee Journal, Black Renaissance Noire, JMWW, Kalyani Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Boxcar Poetry Review, and Fifth Wednesday, which recently awarded her with the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Poetry. She is a contributor to several anthologies, including Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writers’ Workshop (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014) and Read Women: An Anthology (Locked Horn Press, 2014). She has received an artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center, and currently serves the Poetry Editor of Generations Literary Journal. Originally born and raised in Bali, Indonesia, she now lives in New Jersey.

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