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Tung-Hui Hu
Tung-Hui Hu




The Order Of Things



A woman rents sheep
for the summer. Her flock grazes

outside her kitchen window,
shaped like light bulbs,

keeping the grass clean,
well-lighted. In the fall,

a farmer takes them away
and delivers lamb chops,

but too many for just one.
Soon after the divorce,

she calculates the minimum
you need for a farm: a dog,

a rabbit, a goat, a chicken?
Or is it a sheep, a dog, a horse,

a family? Since when did
rabbits stop being pests and when

did we start sleeping with dogs?
She thinks: When we were young,

the story was simple. Big animals
ate animals one size down,

& so on down to cats and mice,
but nature was not cruel. To keep

the order of things, that mouse,
littlest of all, could climb into

the elephant’s ear. That was its
chance to gnaw elephant’s brain.



Dentist’s Love Song



      Love, the back of your
mouth is visible and delicate
as mushrooms, caves,

or even moths that come out
at night after painting sugar
on tree bark, feathery,

blanched and translucent
from flashlights. Had I
a hundred tongues yours

would be the kindest and
most radiant: the last
time I saw anything shine

like your gums was at
a pond encircled with
cattails and coarse tipped

grasses on which beetles
climbed, hard-shelled
and bright as hammers.



Flooded Grave



after Jeff Wall


When the Board of Supervisors declared the dead unsanitary in 1901 there was a growing panic: what to do with the already dead but newly unclean. A new city several miles south was incorporated for the purposes of holding the dead, one whose bylaws expressly avoided the issue of hygiene and mortality, and a moving day was set. Volunteers lined the streets ready to throw flowers and purify the ground should any coffin accidentally fall out of the wagons. A gust of wind, perhaps, or a false step from a pothole. Some argued that the move was too hasty, even disrespectful. But nowhere in the contracts did it guarantee where the dead should reside. The language was about time: forever, perpetuity, a hundred years. And: the dead shall obey the same laws as the living, including all codes for safeguarding public health. When all was said and done the cemetery looked like a battlefield. The best stone was removed and made into an organ facing the bay. The holes were then left to fill with rainwater. Over time, coral grew back and attracted anemones and fish, who were not picky. They would live anywhere and light any place with flashes of red and gold.