Inauguration Poem

A girl stalked a sheep in a field. The sheep began to bleed
& the whole field smelled like carnage.
A butcher had moved in and slaughtered the sheep.

Red, the stain on her dress. Empty, her basket. The depletion
of resources winter sowed — the house on the hill in disrepair.
In the vacated house, the girl tried to flush

the blood down the toilet but the infrastructure
couldn’t completely erase the evidence of life.

The girl studied Islamic history, the origin
of arithmetic. The stain turned the girl into a lady
in her country’s blighted first-world landscape.

History’s pages were open, one by one they ripped.
When she asked the spout for water, it rusted.

She grew cold. She grew weary. She grew sad.
If only she could ban the butcher in solidarity

with the bad children, the refugees and outcasts.
Instead she drove into the city, the urban sprawl
swallowing her. She went into a store, got caught stealing

a candy bar. Surveillance footage showed she had
no remorse. She justified: We all live on stolen
land. Why not one bar of chocolate, subsidized?

Then she remembered prisoners, their tombstones
unmarked. A cop arrested her, trapped
her in the back of the police van. Trillions

of atoms spinning inside her body, an unrealized
commodity for strange men’s agendas. Order,
dystopia, blueprint of urban catastrophe.

The streets, without strangers, all barren.
The trees, without protection, all windswept.

More Poems by Sally Wen Mao