Lachlan Chu

Aubade to J
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you
in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You will know them
by their fruits”

—Matthew 7:15-16

Despite this, and despite the dying, how we’ve never known an Earth at rest,
you are close. Of course, how could you not have noticed—
                                          after the resurrection, the replacement of the cross—
                     what little we have beside miracles. I consider
a different crucifix, one buried in the earth. Something beneath a
roofless cathedral in the forest, overgrown, the stone crumbling, pews emptied
                     of churchgoers. This is the flowerhead:
basin for prayers, the collector. Then you and your infinite sanctuary.
The stem and the roots and their hanging in that position as if locked in the dirt,
sedentary and almost mindless,
but absorbing.

It’s impossible to dispose of energy. Your roots cannot drink everything
the flowers have collected for them. Your world-body is circulation
and exchange, it is shivering in sin, it wants to return always
                     to where it began. Your cathedral is not only the flower, but also
                                          the fruit, its sweetness and blessing.
Its spores and reproduction. Yes, stretches of you grow everywhere:
in my daughter’s cemetery and the river I cross to get there.
                     In the silver cross I buried in the dirt after losing her,
in the fruits you could not give, in every drop of antidote.
                     In this river and its miracle: how I rest my child upon the water
and feel that she is rocked.



The Panopticon Complex

Before we climb inside the towers, the other guards train us
                     to remember what’s prey and who’s preying. Every day, they tell us:

you are an arrow at full draw. / We see each cell a part of, and itself,
                     a beast, and when it’s 11 and dark, they are even more the same,

even more organelles and animal. We pass around the night shift,
                     practice drawing ourselves like weapons, practice keeping watch

in the center of our hunger. When my turn comes my eyes will not stop
                     flickering. I wield my light as if it were human, rattle the bars with its

baton, splash in the drool by the cage. Every sound makes an echo.
                     Every cell begins to lurch. The other guards told us our sedative was

surveillance, so I surveille each cell in an attempt to muzzle it, dig
                     past the cat eyes which are the only parts visible in this light. / One

prisoner is thinking about atavism. He conceives of an escape wherein
                     the world is green and apocalyptic, an oxymoron in

the primeval of before and the extinction of after. But he does not concede
                     this much. It was never a genocide if his kind was never human.

The inmate understands his cells are brutal archeology:
                     worn tooth, trodden hoof. In his mind, the other elk run in herds:

groundswell on seabed, the foot and jaw, the shock of antlers. At the end,
                     some rest on land, and the plants grow over them—take root in the fur,

forsythia and its full inflorescence, the stalk, the sunlight. Mankind
                     is relegated to consumption and sleep. There is nothing but an Earth

left emptied of us and our recrudescence, strips of sky pulled down
                     into the pupils of the elk, into the jails misused by the first rumor

of containment. / When my shift is over, I relinquish my arrow, hide
                     in the prison arsenal. The megafauna are beginning to crawl.




my mother says hush, and as a girl
                     I remember drifting on cardboard boats,
sifting liquid like sand, never feeling the ache
                     of hunger. still a girl, I cup my hands together
and wish the water isn’t polluted before it
                     reaches my tongue. I taste my parents’ absence
in the oil of the ocean, and I know of their
                     marrow—how they fed it to me, how it kept me
alive. as a woman, I look at my vehicle, my
                     engine. the boat is covered in newspapers
and wrinkled diplomas, hung with water and salt.
                     it was all of themselves, and maybe I didn’t notice
while they stapled the paper. still a woman,
                     I watch for distant buildings, glimpse cities
after submersion. I dip my lens underwater,
                     in search of land. drowning and diving
are only a direction apart, and as a mother
                     I sometimes think that I could make it to the
bottom and leave my child rocking on the sea,
                     cradled in another cardboard boat. I’d leave
my only inheritance: american air poison and
                     plastic-wrapped ocean. I’d tell her to find
the other daughters afloat, pushed like her
                     to the edge, choosing whether to fight or
to drown. my own lungs choke on gas. maybe
                     that’s why I write in lowercase: I want to
fit everything on my daughter’s boat
                     so nothing weighs more than it needs. still
a mother, i christen my child the grief
                     of waves, of their washing. i am ready
to deploy her, but first i must whisper



Lachlan Chu is a poet from California whose work has received honors from Narrative Magazine, the Bay Area Creative Foundation, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and elsewhere. His poetry has recently appeared in the Harvard Advocate and KALW. He serves as founder and editor-in-chief for Acedia Journal and his chapbook, Colossus in the Middle of Nowhere, will be published in 2024.