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Dao Strom



Once, I climbed into a tree on the bank of a river on the border between two countries. To pose for a photograph. This border lies in a desert or one might say the desert is a border or fever-dream of. I wore a yellow dress chosen by the white woman photographer who also had chosen me, one afternoon in a parking lot. I admired her photographs so I said yes. Even as I understood it was my skin, an indeterminate brownness I was well-versed at inhabiting, that made me the perfect candidate to fulfill her vision of a particular enactment of body in that particular tree on the desert riverbank between two contraries; sometimes juxtaposition is not so much counterpoint as it may also be—re-vision. The palm fronds were long, dry, pale brown, laced with fine spiky edges. I kept my shoes on to climb into the tree, then took them off and tossed them back down to the ground for the picture. I held a yellow bunch of ripe bananas in my left hand and stared into the middle distance. The photographer already had a title in mind for this photograph: Table Fruit.


                                i am standing on the bank of a river


(supposed)              two         contraries

                                 it is morning november-bright desert cool

                                 i am wearing a yellow


                                   river re-dreamt  into                  divining line

                                                   to covet

                                 indeterminate              architecture of body

                                 brownness                    wanted

                                                   yes i climbed into the tree

                                 those fat dense fan palms        imports also

                                 to the chihuahua hot springs valley

                                                                                   &  held                   

                                                   in my left hand

(supposed)                  my        skin’s

                                                   but i understood my role

                                                   to allow others sometimes

                                 i am holding                          distance

                                 i am wearing                         countries


                                     an indeterminate              people

                                                                             a yellow dress


                                 a trick of the light or of relationality

                                 i stood in their labiate



                                between two


The refugee porn
star wears a cat-

suit complete with
cat-mask  bcuz

s/he knows they
want and love

most (esp
on the inter-

net) those little
or furry or

big-eyed ones
In the mirror

I practice having
a waist  bcuz

how will I get back
home w/o one ?

It should be dimin-
utive enuff (that word)

to make an average
man’s forearm

look big  &/or

& wd u prefer me
in the yellow dress

or the yellow
pantsuit or

in diphthongs ?
In truth I have never

really been palimp-



Note: This poem has a precedent in “Flower Diatribe #1”, a text and video poem first published in Poetry Northwest.

It always begins something like this—with the attempted placement of
one mouth over another.

You waking to you as body as oppositional territory

“It’s like, there’s a Ferrari and I’ve never driven a Ferrari before, and I’m thinking if I can drive it I should drive it.”

Or the one whose stray dog defecated in your closet the night he
thought he was there to comfort you: “You just have to ask God and the baby
to forgive you.”

But to the one who offered himself as an eagle and you the rabbit, that time
you said no. Even though he might at some point have written you a recommendation letter. Or given you a pen in parting.

So you could keep on writing.

And so that on his end, when he took out his matching one to sign
a document or contract or check at some future point, he would
simultaneously send out to you a single thought, picturing you naked,
back in the place where (he believes) he conquered yet gave something
to you.

A manner of country (always) (separate) from his own.

Instead: you wake alone. You walk out into a cold morning.

You belong to no one.


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