This one is a memory or a wounding. Leave memoryin the dark, and the cutouts are less visible—
Like Kara Walker’s images of men and women,grotesque in rape scenes, their silhouettes
laser-cut into black metal figurines.My father’s psyche is shot through, shrapnel
still lodged in his scalp. I watched him workat the lathe, at the mill. His fingers pressed against
the blueprints. He does the math and punches numbersinto the machine. It shaves the metal rod down
to its essential shape, military grade partsof Boeing jets, and sometimes, I think, warplanes.
Yesterday, he plucked orangesand washed them clean under the tap.
He hasn’t carried a gun in over 35 years,not since leaving that country—
where he fought, an unwilling soldier,for over twelve years.
I inspect his motions carefully.The shadow he casts at dusk
is long and black,and when he enters the house,
it dissipates like smoke. [End Page 25]
Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James, 2014), the winner of the 2012 Kundiman Poetry Prize. She received her MFA from New York University and is the recipient of fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Hedgebrook, and Poets House.