August 16, 2017KR OnlinePoetry

Guerilla Theory

The largest primate in the world
is the white man’s ego. It has learned
thousands of English words
it employs every day in an attempt
to fill the silences of the world.
Hello, child plant. Hello, human.
So began the system
of naming. So fell the Tower
of Babel. Nature took over. I saw
a monkey’s face when I looked
at a cloud, but my mother couldn’t
even make out the head. Someone
looked at a tree and called it a tree.
Someone else looked at a tree
and called it whatever the word
for tree is in Vietnamese,
which I don’t remember anymore.
And the word for that loss
is too big to fit into a single
word. It unrooted itself from
my tongue and replanted itself
in the different dips of the English
language. I have been engaged
in guerilla warfare ever since
my first teacher had me recite
the beginnings of the alphabet.
The letters were dropped
out of bombers. I am full
of holes and dormant landmines.
So if a gorilla rises from the fox
holes, there are no warnings.
It is the kind of predator that strikes
from behind. And when I turn
towards the drumbeat
of its feet, the loud thunder song
sung behind the trees, I see
only its path: the jungle undone,
the soil pressed a little deeper
into itself. And into me.

Kien Lam is a Kundiman fellow and received his MFA from Indiana University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles where he writes about eSports.