Two Poems

Thành Hoàng

The tiger came down out of the central highlands.

Cabled muscles contracted and stretched into easy strides that shimmered its stripes, volcanic rips in reality, while its yellow eyes anchored and engulfed.

The tiger tamed villages and hamlets then districts skirting the city and finally the city altogether where streets congested with motorbikes unzipped a lane.

Though sheathed, its protractile claws clicked on the asphalt.

It stalked into a cafe, occupied a table with a view, and with a polite northern accent ordered an iced coffee with condensed milk.

The soul of a person eaten by a tiger becomes part of the soul of the tiger, and the people agreed the tiger must have eaten many people.

Someone summoned the police.

They established a perimeter and crouched behind their motorbikes to escape notice.

But the tiger looked at nobody and nothing, rightfully fearless without qualification.

Anyway it had other things to think about.

On the tiger’s body, the stories of swallowed souls played out in short, silhouetted shadow puppet episodes that shifted and dissolved one into another, narrative games as old as fire.

People clashed swords.

People worked lush, terraced rice fields under nón lá.

People pointed and discharged guns, and sometimes the earth exploded beneath their feet.

A dragon swept over the dead like a curse on the land.

People wept with rage and lament.

The jungle forests flattened, the highlands and mountaintops burned bare, the jungle forests grew back a little quieter than before, patched over and grafted on.

Still if one looked for them bees trawled the air.

The tiger had fed for so long on time and suffering now the glut of options and dearth of care paralyzed with indecision and dejection.

Everything, the tiger decided, everything it could see.

The tiger would eat the world.

Internet Research Agency

  1. Excessive ingestion of sunflower seeds increases exposure to cadmium. No studies have been done to determine its impact on sunflower seed flavor or roastability. Cadmium toxicity softens bones.
  2. Having spanned decades, whales that tire too much to surface to breathe eventually drown. America lost six nuclear weapons that have never been found. Sloths digest food slowly enough to starve while satiated.
  3. People good at murder get away with it. When residual radioactive debris and soot entrained high in a pyrocumulus cloud first fell on Hiroshima it had no name. Before it was called fallout it was called black rain.
  4. Cows eat grass to feed the livestock of bacteria in their four-chambered biome. The colonies grow exponentially until culled, a rich source of protein, and the cycle restarts. Likewise gulag prisoners escaping into the taiga recruited new inmates as walking supply.
  5. Bananas are berries. Watermelons, cantaloupes, tangerines, persimmons, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, pumpkins, oranges, kiwis, lemons, limes, and grapes too. But not raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Blueberries, cranberries, and gooseberries are though, so not all hope is lost. It’s all about the ovaries.
  6. A mortgage is a death pledge with collateral, like how digestive enzymes promise to decompose your body after death. Dentures used to be made from the dead’s teeth. Teratomas may grow teeth, though only one set. You blush in your stomach too.
  7. Prized for transparency, applied in glazes, shadows, flesh tones, and shading, the pigment “mummy brown” was composed of white pitch, myrrh, and ground-up remains of ancient Egyptian mummies, human and feline. Despite its tendency to crack from ammonia and particles of fat, demand outstripped supply, which meant still less powdered human skull to brew with chocolate to combat apoplexy.
  8. Spent oxygen tanks and frozen bodies wrapped in primary color mountaineering gear blazon Rainbow Valley, the area beneath Mount Everest’s northern ridge, where they fell. Normal wastage warrants accounting.
  9. Some people lack an internal monologue, their stream of consciousness more of an arroyo. Others experience aphantasia: like a camera with a finger over its lens they can’t create an image in their mind. No named syndrome for when the phenomena combine.
  10. The ghost frequency, an infrasonic signal around 19Hz, elicits discomfort, dizziness, hyperventilation, and fear. For some, eyeballs vibrating in their sockets signal total panic as a presence steals around the edge of vision. Under the right circumstances, household fans may pitch it. Poems too.
  11. Because they are so forgiving, beagles make excellent test subjects, but perhaps the universe has already collapsed, and the end of everything hurtles toward us at the speed of light. When it arrives, we won’t know it. Annihilation also may have a soft spot for us.

Christopher Louvet’s many jobs have included that of soccer referee, ironworks factotum, software engineer, and dishwasher. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Main Street Rag, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Washington Square Review, and online with McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He lives in Hanoi.