VOL        

        UME




 

Chorus of the Scorned
Michelle Phuong Ho


1

She arrived, one morning
on my doorstep, mottled
quail. Quivering      

for the slightest nod, the smallest
envelope. Something in me
wanted her


2

crushed. A version, I thought
long conquered—as though the past
life were a thing

one disposes
once done with. A bright red


3

beg for crumbs. Pitiful
flitting. Inside me 


4

there are chambers where I keep
my hated ones, their images each
frozen, static


5

symbols of


6

the enemy. Hard-faced
masquerade, I wanted nothing

but friends. Sisters.

More than victory, I wanted this
long war to cease, and all my love
of torment, gone.


7




8

Nude, my fear.

Mirror-made twin, the ruse—


9

Wed as I was to
stone, I could not shake
the threat of love. How she comes


10

lush. Bright


11

dissonance. My neural grip, loosed
of story. Something like the world


12

making grave
the sparrow’s admonition—

There is no resisting deluge


13

when she comes
                                    I’m feeling
along for perimeter, a familiar
railing, and finding

none—finding instead


14

water, still of webbed feet. Ever
glinting, ever shifting


15

what a face can mean.


16

And it is not shame


17

that draws me forth from
stone, but the woman


18

you are. Steel
menace, now steam. Like the first

rise of a soldier, after defeat
wondering—What good world


19

returns


20

every woman and girl
I’ve loathed.

                            We’ve come


21

not to haunt, but to join

a whole


22

chorus of the scorned, calling down
the long corridor—it’s time


23

you turn. There are mirrors
angled in every direction—and every
face

I’ve ever held


24

hostage

is beginning to bleed, until


25

my chambers lie
vacant, clean of hatreds
harbored inside them. I scrub


26

and scrub, until I can see
clearly, my face

among the shunned. I can see


27

her, myself


28

among the loved. Mercy


29

is thorough. Stirring
in me every bright red
bird I almost


30

crushed. Pigeon’s chest pressed
by a thumb.


Michelle Phuong Ho is a poet based in New Haven, CT. Her writing has appeared in Apogee, Black Warrior Review, and wildness, among others, and has been recognized with the 2020 Frontier Poetry Industry Prize. Born to Vietnamese refugees, she received her MFA in poetry from NYU.

Mark



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