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  • Two Poems
  • Naomi Long (bio)

Terra Nullius

By the time we arrived,         people were already burying their dead, lives spent on rock, claiming           This is our land, before sliding back into the earth, or dispersing as ash on the sea, their voices     a mist over the waves. Digging deeper we found         even older bones—   some diseased or bludgeoned—these first settlers           who paddled into vastness                   in search                     of terra nullius.

We deplaned     with our luggage and ambitions, with dreams of                    deliverance, but no one stays for long. Each wave routs the one before it, until the day comes when                 the sea itself rises and swallows the island and all our bones and flags. [End Page 90]

Landscape Painting

for my father, “Doc” Long The burning slipstream of war           pulls everyone into its current— the dead, the living, the living dead,             my father. Who did     my mother marry? Never quite here nor there, the lush jungles of Vietnam and Hawaii,                 one dissonant world. He left behind paintings lost to me now:               redwoods, pines, snow-capped peaks, rivers so frothy and alive               we could hear them rushing by        in the living room. Were these landscapes his desire       or memory? Places he would go as he stalked through rice paddies,           undergrowth tumescent with rot,        faces without sound,     the constant whisper, This could be your day, Doc, heart thumping in its cage          like any animal’s, malaria       stirring him and everyone               into a fevered dream.

He would drink, my mother said, and disappear.               I see him walking, each night,             down a long booby-trapped road   seared plains on either side, his path of glass             splintering and cracking under         his heavy, moonshined boots,                 his face in shards. Not a father, not a husband, not the man he was before. [End Page 91]

Naomi Long

Naomi Long was born in Korea and raised in Hawai‘i. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Los Angeles.



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pp. 90-91
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