At a party,
in the humid dusk among people
I mostly don’t know: just as
the tray of mint chocolate brownies
is passed around, a man turns
to me: And where did you
do your graduate degree?
Let’s try that again.
At a party, in the living room
among academics she doesn’t know
very well: just as dessert is passed
around, a man in khaki shorts, sandals,
and a Hawaiian print shirt turns to her:
My wife and I used to live in HK.
One more time.
At the party, my focus sharpens
as the man who said he and his wife used
to live in HK suddenly discloses that he
was so disturbed about those tiny sleeping
quarters in apartments there— no bigger
really than for two or three pieces
of luggage. He wrote and published
an article about it.
A ten year war, or twelve, or twenty;
a century or more. A siege. A taking,
a taking over. Those subdued
are called the colonized.
On seeing the shade of Helen, Faustus
declaims that famous line: Was this
the face that launch’d a thousand ships/
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
On seeing my face,
others seem moved
to remember only their
encounters with maids.