• Palinode

    Michael Prior

    Spring 2021

    My mother is stalking cabbage moths
        with a tennis racket. She looks
    most like herself when she tenses
        then swings over rows of kale and romaine
    at the white specks floating through
        blue shadows. She is bisected
    by the swaying frame, distanced
        by the poor resolution of the video
    my sister just sent. Her left hand
        is bandaged: tendonitis from picking
    caterpillars and eggs off the leaves
        with chopsticks. As if to prove
    obsession is its own lineage
        I have spent hours checking the sun-
    stunted shiso for iridescent beetles,
        bodies tufted with fine hairs
    like the down on a dandelion seed,
        spent years wondering what it meant
    to be her or her parents, uprooted,
        dispossessed. I can see so clearly
    time’s possession in the way I speak—
        like her—the preference for detail,
    for impossible control, how my skin
        has pocked and wrinkled, the gray
    growing up my temples.

    Michael Prior's poems have appeared in the New Republic, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Narrative, the Academy of American Poet's Poem-a-Day series, and the Asian American Writers' Workshop's The Margins. He is the author of Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House 2020) and Model Disciple (Véhicule Press 2016).

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