you are in the diode archives diode v5n2



He shows the child

how to ply the line.  How to work the barb into the throat.  Reaching after the hook

he scrapes his finger on a line of teeth and the surface of the lake flares
          like a looking glass.  He cuts away from the tail     along the line of the palm. 

White flesh falls open     unzipped
          at the seam.  There are many ways to gut a fish. 

The child refuses the rod, will not take barb or bait.  The line hangs

Lake smooth & undisturbed     a mirror without a face. 

What peers from the belly     a kind of betrayal.  How many does it take
         to satisfy a line, a limit.  

What is it we see in the face of the mirror
          and what prevents us from dipping in our own.

How the landed body flips and shivers.  Pulled onto sandy bank
          gills gape like terrible wounds—

air drawn from the body     a cut, a whistle.

When does the leaving occur and how soon does rigor mortis set in
          making the skin stiff as chain mail.

To bone a fish, lift the tail and scrape the scales forward.  Loosen the flesh
          until it pulls free. 

Unfold the ribs’ feathery architecture then flip and repeat.  Lay the halves
          side by side—  like imperfect mirrors. 

In the child’s body, a growing sleekness.  The skin thins and repels
          rain.  Scales develop. 

Cut the line, it tells the man     shows an odd affinity for fish.  What fails to pass
          from one set of hands

to the next.  What slips away     trailing a cut line.  The departed body
          fills with radiance. 

There is no way to know if a fish is female if you refuse to split the hull.


A History of Grandmother

Grandmother is lady cross Pacific and fly over Black Caspian and Arabian to get to United States.  Is lady strip gobo root and slice as if pickling ginger.  Is lady wipe face and turn from train track when spat at.  Is lady held by barbed wire and B-24 bomber in Arkansas desert.  Is lady wave to Japanese housekeeper when war start.  Is lady shout goodbye from kitchen window.  Is lady measure length of silk to tuck at hip with safety pin wrap round waist and pleat at shoulder.  Is lady tape name to bottom of pan before church social.  Is lady sell kimono and cut boiled potato to size of rice grain.  Is lady make quick slit in palm and twirl circle of dough in shape of cone.  Is lady tuck kitchen blade beneath box spring next to No. 11 knitting needle. 


In brown church siren fade to rubble.  All home fade to rubble.  Yellow dust will not wash.  Overhead air raid is dry spike arrange on stem hard like rain.  Body slice by shrapnel like pickled ginger dye bright pink and bury.  Before meal wipe metal free of dust.  Behind barbed wire all question run to one. 

Spread nori over element to crinkle which will prevent warp when holding salt or water.  Sprinkle sesame seedsalt.  Moisten saltwater hand before press kernel to shape of cupped palm.  Watch sea spread pattern of sparkle.  Hold salt soak before release.

Separate spice in proportion of difference and if unused later discard.  Crush cardamom between finger and tear baggy husk.  Let seed drop like crusted fruit.  Separate Western Japanese cup bowl in kitchen cabinet. Wipe spittle from cheek in Cincinnati and leave sorority.  Mark difference.  Watch son stain yellow.  Tape name to bottom of pot before bring to church.  Tape name to casserole pitcher knife.


I cannot remember where is grandmother during the war.  Is it Oslo or is it Osaka.  I does not wish to appear foolish.  There is the question of authenticity.

When I writes about family I uses words like ______ and _______ knowing such designations will make no sense.  I uses these details to make herself at home on a page that is otherwise white.

I puts the rim of her teacup against lower lip and blows through her teeth for a dampening effect.

I wishes to write about an important person in her life but cannot do so without saying ________ or ________.

Instead I writes about dust.  A flat pigment that stains yellow and cannot be washed from steel.  A spice with a seedy head shaped like a pincushion.  I names no names.


Wrap round and round   tight-suck waist   fix bow on back use metal prong   fold stiff silk   press in fan shape    smooth fold across chest   remove every wrinkle   face camera angle body to catch every pattern and line.  


Mia Ayumi Malhotra lives in Seattle, Washington, and teaches poetry at the University of Washington.  Her work has appeared in such places as the Asian American Literary Journal, Cha, and the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies.  She is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets’ Harold Taylor Prize and the MacLeod-Grobe Poetry Prize, and currently serves as the associate editor of Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry.