Mother of People without Script

You swear the twin spirits
taught you to write.

At night, you climbed
the leaves to hear the gods.

Catch in the throat. Hollow breath.

       Paj is not pam is not pab.
    Blossom is not blanket is not help.

           Ntug is not ntuj is not ntub.
        Edge is not sky is not wet.

On sheet of bamboo
with indigo branch.

      To txiav is not the txias.
           To scissor is not the cold.

The obsidian mask
will make its own sleep,

leave behind the silver
your body won’t shed.

Now you are Niam Ntawv
who was once a young farmer

scrawling in secret toward
the triggering day.

When they could take no more,
when all that you had was given,

you lined your grave with paper.

More Poems by Mai Der Vang