Mai Der Vang's debut collection Afterland stares frankly at her family's past. She is Hmong, and her family left Laos as refugees after the US withdrawal. Her poems are imagistic and episodic. They are a haunting, from both the living and the dead. Buy here.
From "Calling the Lost"
Hmong people say one's spirit can run off, / Go into hiding underground. // Only the physical stays behind. // To heal, a shaman checks on the spirit / By scraping the earth, / Examining the dirt. // If an ant emerges, / He takes it inside, // Careful not to crush the ant with his hold, / Nor flutter its being into shock / With one exhale. // Sometimes we hide in ants, he says.
From "Final Dispatch from Laos"
Concerning our unused stomachs, / Molars waiting to chew, taste buds // Obsolete. By then, we won't remember / We're alive. We'll be the soil covered // In mines.
From "Last Body"
I'm moving on / To what the world needs me to know. // I am an angel trapped inside the bullet. / I am the exit wound trapped inside the angel. // Am I the scarecrow / Perched at the end of the human trail.