Last night, for the first time, I was invited to read my poetry to an audience.
The Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies emailed me a couple weeks ago saying that they had selected my poem to be published in the special literary edition of their journal. The email came as a complete surprise – the creative writing email list sounds out dozen of publication opportunities, and if I have material that fits the specifications I submit it, but I had totally forgotten that I had submitted anything to the Asian American Studies Journal.
The reading was held in one of the dining rooms in the Faculty Club. I’ve always heard good things about how nice the Faculty Club is, and I am so pleased to have experienced it myself before I graduate in a couple weeks. A very nice dinner was served, and I sat at a table towards the front with about ten other people I had never met before. For the most part we made polite table conversation, but I had an interesting discussion about New York and graffiti among other things with Shimon Tanaka who was seated to my left. Shimon is a teacher in the Creative Writing department, and one of the three featured readers of the night. In addition to being very friendly and great to talk to, his reading from a short story he’d written about two Japanese boys was one of the best of the night. The readings varied in style, genre, and quality, but over all I had a good time, and I got to read two of my poems – “The Apsara,” which was featured in the journal, and “Kept Close.” I’ve included the text of the “The Apsara” below, or you can read both poems on my website rwright.me.
Hewn free from the sandstone block, I danced into air
And my feet, commanded by the god-king of a Cambodian empire,
Pointed themselves, anklet-enclosed, in the shape of a prayer.
Slowly, sinuously, my arm rose above my head, my fingers flared
And arched towards my sister dancing by my side, part of thousands in our choir
Hewn free from the sandstone block; we danced into air.
Today, in shades of gray, lichen and rain stains twist across my hair
Entwining my jeweled headdress with the passing time, dappling the three rising spires
Crowning my brow, delicately-balanced, in the shape of a prayer.
Hindu at conception, I now dance for the Buddha, for I shall do what the god-king declares.
Attended by the pious few draped in vivid orange who worship here, divinely inspired,
We still, hewn free from the sandstone block, dance into air.
Hundreds now trek daily to capture my frozen image within a camera, and stare
At the detailed girdles kissing our hips and our silver skin, much admired,
Baring itself, polished by fingertips, in the shape of a prayer.
Unable to leave this temple of Angkor, my movements shall forever belong to the Khmer
But I am proud to uphold their hopes and heavenly appeals as I turn and twist and never tire:
Hewn free from the sandstone block, I shall forever dance into air
Arching myself, bound and beloved, in the shape of a prayer.