Cole Caswell, Deserted American Dreaming, LA River Wild (tintype), 8”x10”,  California, 2016

After Richard Siken

At twelve, my mother is a fox
            spirit unlearning her own girlhood.
Man strokes the arch of her nape. Fur
            robe fringed with bright grass stalks,
his fingers slick as candlelights—
            warmth in this unwedded dusk rain.
This is Qingdao, a blue greening lush
            & lustrous. Rabbits dot the hills like
shiftless wildflowers. Qingdao, where
            my mother is only milk teeth & chase,
cheongsam sleeves belled over forepaws. 
            Closer, the man says. & the girl-woman
closes in, circles the edgeless bramble,
            an afterimage with dark gloved feet.
A fox tail is, proverbially speaking, never
            easily hidden. So my mother is the vulpine
beneath the feminine, a red deity adorning
            her new husband with sharp jewel & bite.
The bedside mirrors tilt face-down on
            cloud filigree. Outside, the rabbit on the moon.
Inside, the man formless & wriggling,
            spring-flushed atop fresh textile fields.
In folklore, the spirit lures husbands as
            hungry prey & leaves them fogged over,
fermented in rice wine. A claw finger hooked
            under a hared throat. Veins tugged back,
blooming to orchids. Bronze cups serrate
            gold by acidity. My mother re-grooms
as smoke plumes out in nine fanned tails,
            cinders scraping down an ash-furred pyre.


Jacqueline He