Emperor to General

Imperial Palace, Hue

It’s not enough to invade the land.
You must control the mountains and seas,
the river deltas and alluvial plains.

You must infiltrate their barbarisms,
their drum dances, their burial practices.

You must vanquish the Trưng fairies
and crush the rebellions they have inspired.

Be on guard. The water people are as liquid
as the tributaries that empower them.

Once subdued, don’t impose high taxes.
The savages will revolt
and burn down your prefectures.

Above all, you must tranquilize the native lords
and inculcate in them the Confucian way.

Only then will we control a kingdom
of bronze and water.
Only then will we have a commandery
of rhino horns and scented woods.

Blue Angels

Their contrails thunder back

through cortical clouds firing in the depths 

of hippocampal unrest, the army of carpe

                  Diệm descending on the people, crushing every chant

                  with St. Louis wings, the souls of immolating monks 

floating off towards enlightenment 

seen through a living room tube

the smoking corpses ignite a firestorm

too large to extinguish—the anti-war movement bringing down 

its own starfighters and thunderchiefs

its phantoms and delta daggers, the skyraiders

ripping through the communist blue

                  re-emerging across the San Francisco Bay to silence

the cries of children brought here to make sense of

the outlandish power on display