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Spoken Under Hypnosis: An Earlier Life in Burma as a Woman Named Mi Aye by Dean Kostos
published in Volume 10, Issue 1 on June 1st, 2003

Imagine stepping through a gate that is exit and entrance:
       Pass from who you are to who you could
              no longer be. What do you see?

Pretending not to notice men's glances,
       I traipse, soles tasting soil.
              Filaments I embroidered

into dragons entwine on the longyi skirt
       whispering across my calves.
              Lanterns yaw overhead. Pushed

by the crowd, a soldier falls into me.
       The way a blade slices an envelope,
              he opens my silence.

              What does he say?

He calls my eyelids suede seeds,
       my hair black streams. His arms gleam
              like leaves after rain.

By candle-flicker, my hair scrawls calligraphy
       onto his chest. He leaves, but always returns
              until the moon no longer bleeds persimmon.

My belly swells like a rice sack.
       While another life ripens, I grow
              thin. Can't eat. Food reeks.

I'm a door closing, a door against.
       Not wanting to shame Mother,
              I spill air from my veils and sail

into a ravine. In brief oblivion, my silks and hair
       tint a cut of sky. When spasms       
              cease, she holds the baby: bald squab,                             
flesh flinching against death. She wraps it
       in banana leaves,
              buries it by the creek.

              What do you see now?

Mother wakes me with a bowl of rice
       but it looks like maggots.
              My arms go cold, my self coils

from its core. I lift from flesh: pit from fruit. She
       spreads my cloths across her pillow, entombs
              her face in embroidered leaves. . . .

              What do you see after dying?
Petals hover in hoof-smoke as a gold
       Buddha riding a gold throne
              sails men's shoulders on a palanquin.
A basket swells with saffron rice; another spills
       pomegranates and lotus pods the color
              of oxblood. Binding my days to Eternity,
an altar wears a swag of knotted ropes.
       A man tilts a mirrored disc-plate full of sky,
              a boy breathes into an oliphant,
an elder thrums a boat-shaped harp; from its strings,
       dead ancestors sing me toward them,
              our words dissolve like gauze.

              Are you at peace?

I can't say; peace no longer has an opposite.

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