Friday, June 4, 2010

Two poems from Teresa Chuc Dowell

The following poems are from Teresa Chuc Dowell's new chapbook, Cartography of Family.

Moon Festival

In the middle of the moon cakes are egg yolks
around a red bean paste where centuries ago notes were hidden
by the Chinese to pass along rebellion war plans
to overthrow the Mongols. My parents buy these cakes for us to
eat every year – it is a tradition.

Genghis Khan and his descendants ruled the vast lands of China.
The Mongolians did not eat moon cakes.
I taste the night sky under which the rebels gathered.
How they organized in the dark and the salted moon crumbles on my tongue.
For now, I will be a quiet, obedient Chinese-American daughter
with my head down when spoken to, but I silently plan my own rebellions.

Not Worth a Bullet

A bullet is made of
copper or lead.
Gunpowder is
poured into the case.
The firing pin hits the
primer at the back of
the bullet which starts
the explosion. Altogether,
the bullet and the case are
typically about 2 inches in length
and weigh a few ounces.

My father said that
the Vietcongs
told him and the other
prisoners while in
“re-education” camp
that they were not worth a bullet.
They would work for the Vietcongs
and then die.

A bamboo tree is smooth, long
with roots that hold the earth
with the strong grip of green
knuckles and fingers.
They are used to build houses,
fences, etc.
A bamboo tree can weigh 60 pounds
or more and be 20 feet tall.

The prisoners were forced to
walk barefoot up the mountains
and carry bamboo back to the camp.

Due to the weight of the bamboo,
they were only able to carry one
at a time.

Teresa Chuc Dowell immigrated to the U.S. under political asylum with her mother and brother shortly after the Vietnam War. She teaches English literature and writing at a public high school in Los Angeles. Her poetry appear in journals such as the
National Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and miller’s pond (online), and her creative nonfiction appear in journals such as Memoir Journal, Sugar Mule, and Mosaic. Teresa earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and is currently a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) at Goddard College in Vermont.

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