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Song of the Oyamel

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On the other side of this door

You are an oyamel native to the mountains of Mexico

Rising in a cloud forest of sister evergreens
Shedding pollen cones, shedding winged seeds

Our lost wings
                    singly and in pairs.

This is why the monarchs vanish    
Raising sienna-hued colonies longer than my arms

Hibernating in Mexico where it’s hotter in January
                than my front yard, where the red bougainvillea raves

And magnolias             with a mauve rush on paper
And open as though thinking about last year’s novels

Read over the shoulders of garden-strollers

Obey the apostle’s exhortation
And do everything in love.

Source: Poetry (April 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Song of the Oyamel

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  • Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her first novel, Sonata in K, was published in 2017. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in journals such as The American PoetPoetryKenyon ReviewGulf CoastJournal of Feminist Studies & ReligionIowa Review, and IMAGE: Art, Faith, & Mystery, and she was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, Lee currently serves as full professor of English and chair at a liberal arts college in greater Los Angeles. She earned an MFA from the Program in Literary Arts at Brown University and a PhD in British & American Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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