We walk around our house for days with an emptiness
that sings in our bones. Otousan gathers the pale feathers
she discarded and we weep over them at dinner,
rice too wet in our dry mouths. I spread my hands
over her silk robe and remember the same strange ache
I felt, hefting her naked baby body over my shoulder.
We nail her note to our door so that her script
can comfort us. I taught her that, Otousan says,
fingers skimming the characters for goodbye.
We see the emperor’s smoke rising from the mountain:
burnt words, offerings of ash to the moon. We quiver,
but he’s already alone; it’s punishment enough. Now
always the stars remind me of the tears tracing down
our alien daughter’s face. Why did we think
our love could keep her? I pull the weeds
in our garden, I pull the grass. I make rice.
Otousan kisses my cheek and burns her note,
her feathers; burns her robe, to forget we are
forgotten. He takes his blade and walks
through the forest, whistling, listening
for a child’s cry. Slicing bamboo, watching
their fragile bodies bend and break, scattering light.
(Editors’ Note: “After the Moon Princess Leaves” is read by Amal El–Mohtar in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 3.)
© 2015 by Isabel Yap