nomad's case for silence

You call to tell me about Amtrak twilight swallowing
Chicago whole, the forced waltz of your mother's lung

between engine failure and your rage, how dinner was
a saffron note of absence. I envy the train's glass kissing

your Kangoled head. Glimpse your freestyle limning four walls
where names hang severed from their collars, eking asylum

in gradients that resemble Ganesha's mercy. We do not speak
of lives buried loosely behind us or figs of dried blood

showing through poetic composure. This junction of moon,
cops and brown kids merge colors, sirens loot traffic jams,

shadow is thorned as the cave-heart of Moloch. I know
enough to fear the rough spade in my mouth: even with love

like damask, woven knee to knee, I have only this to heal
the fishhook's rust in our second hand tongue.

The rain outside pummels sidewalks into iridescent cantatas,
a logic beyond solace, pure, this music living in our stead.

You remind me dreaming feels a lot like doing nothing, the mind
a jungle of cinematic aftertastes shadowboxing old mistakes.

Soon snow will arrive and I will feel eleven again trapped
in the same riddle, Do crows carry our shame like gallstones,

that pulse within pulse gauzing skin's restless embryo,
tracking God's lunacies over a lifetime? I tell you, dream is

the phantom of a salak pit against my molars every time I visit
my father deep in Salish earth still orating sins into his hands.

We stay until the ashtray dawn, when mothers in hijab begin
to comb bus stops for sons who did not come home. Their fingers

carve autumn into questions. I never said I was thinking
of the man I left behind to write these lines, a man who built

his iron from spires of smoke and loved in the din of anvils
engulfing each pore of his blackness. Dream is that sudden

annihilated language between loss and reverence—
its grief remains unspeakable.

Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet, mother and community worker. Born and raised in Bali, Indonesia, she was a visitor in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories for many years prior to residing in New Jersey. Her poems and essays have appeared in US and Canadian publications including Kweli Journal, 580 Split, Borderline Poetry, Zocalo Poets, Briarpatch Magazine, Leftturn and Generations Literary Magazine. She is a member of the Cinderblock Poets collective and an alumnus of the VONA Voices Workshops. Her first book of poems, nomad of salt and hard water, is published by Dinah Press (December 2012). She blogs online at (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761