cover image Reenactments


Hai-Dang Phan. Sarabande, $15.95 (88p) ISBN 978-1-946448-28-6

Phan’s debut unflinchingly presents the trauma inherited through cultural memory as a kind of endless war reenactment. In these poems, even the most mundane setting is haunted by living ghosts. In “Spring Offensive,” moles both overrun the speaker’s mother’s garden and recall the tunnels of Cu Chi (“Rain dripped from the million bells/ the morning my mother found/ her adversaries interred in the pond./ It was a slaughter accidental.”) Elsewhere, a cousin stores fish in a well until they can be eaten, which echoes an uncle’s imprisonment in a reeducation camp. Throughout these poems, the graphic news coverage of the Vietnam War lingers, and the act of “shooting” with a camera presents a violent duality: “The sniper girl is [the photographer’s] favorite role because/ it’s like taking pictures. ‘The beauty, the beauty!’ ” These poems are unadorned and ominous in their vision of memory, a clarion that never ceases to alarm or awe: “What do the clouds have to say that they can never remember?/ A forgotten memory of their Atlantic crossing?/ The earth/ is the same earth, but different. On the shoulder of evening,/ lifted by palm trees, the moon still rises—/ half-emptied.” (Feb.)