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Water Puppets

Water Puppets

Quan Barry
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  • Book Info
    Water Puppets
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry

    In her third poetry collection, Quan Barry explores the universal image of war as evidenced in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Vietnam, the country of her birth. In the long poem "meditations" Barry examines her own guilt in initially supporting the invasion of Iraq. Throughout the manuscript she investigates war and its aftermath by negotiating between geographically disparate landscapes-from the genocide in the Congo-to a series of pros poem "snapshots" of modern day Vietnam. Despite the gravity of war, Barry also turns her signature lyricism to other topics such as the beauty of Peru or the paintings of Ana Fernandez.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7831-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Black cricket in the doorway, on the ceiling, in
    (pp. 16-16)
  2. Monasterio de Santa Catalina
    (pp. 23-23)
  3. different location, same outcome
    (pp. 26-26)
  4. Sweeney on Her Wedding Night
    (pp. 30-30)
  5. If only I had been able to form the idea of a substance that was spiritual
    (pp. 47-48)
  6. self-portrait with a pair of open scissors
    (pp. 49-49)
  7. poem
    (pp. 55-55)

    With hisnon laon, he looks like everyone else, his bare feet cracked and calloused, but when he takes it off, he has the face of a foreign tourist—his nose angular, his cheeks chiseled in such a way the late afternoon light hits them differently. Try not to stare as he slips among the other vendors, his baskets full of durians, his gestures the same as theirs, clothes threadbare but clean, this white man selling fruit along the Perfume River, this child of the enemy who stayed and made a life for himself in a country where the...

  8. poem
    (pp. 56-56)

    The building has four floors. There’s not much to see—the furniture mostly from the early seventies, an old fighter jet cemented on the roof next to two monstrous circles, in each, explanations in English and Vietnamese of how at 8:30 am on April 8, 1975, an NVA airman dropped two prophetic bombs right here. Legend has it when the North rolled into Saigon, General Minh, who had become head of state only forty-three hours before the fall, stood waiting with his officers in the reception chamber. When the Viet Cong tanks finally rolled in, he said, “I have been...

  9. poem
    (pp. 57-57)

    In the last room shelves lined with jars, pale bleached things held in suspension. The room overwhelmed with them, in places the jars two deep, each different in its own way. Some contain two-headed cows, others dogs and cats with massive deformities—prehensile tails, the stumps of extra heads growing out of odd places, one a fetal pig but the moony thing has flippers. Finally work your way toward the case that contains human fetuses, somebody’s baby preserved in formaldehyde. The children are grotesque and seem to shine, their skin luminous and unfinished. Many are conjoined, some at the head,...

  10. poem
    (pp. 58-58)

    The foyer like a bank, the guards everywhere, the air cool and dry. Climb some stairs, then some more, turning this way and that, everywhere faces in the polished stone. Except for the long line of guards the corridors are completely empty; there is nothing else in this building. Finally arrive in the room itself, the guards more and more identical in their white uniforms, the hall’s sudden orange light theatrical yet macabre. Begin to cry. Clap your palms together, bow your head three times, each bow deeper than the last like the elderly woman on your left. His right...

  11. poem
    (pp. 59-59)

    The stage knee-deep and so blue it looks solid. Then a pod of dragons surfaces, their golden bodies lithe and playfully skimming the surface, the water beading on their backs. What was born more than a thousand years ago in the flooded paddies along the Mekong, a complex lattice of bamboo poles submerged in the water, the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. Slowly Quan Âm, the Goddess of Mercy, rises, her six arms twirling freely, arms like blossoms, parts for the whole, the droplets scattering from her crown, the sky-blue water churning. Tonight the world is a wheel, a song...

  12. poem
    (pp. 60-60)

    After a while the cab pulls onto the highway, stops behind a line of cars waiting to pay a toll before continuing the twenty miles out to the airport. Behind them the city is hazy, the pollution like a winding sheet. By the side of the road a young boy walks barefoot, a dirty piece of cloth wrapped around his waist, in the distance the heat tremulous on the asphalt. The highway is a long shadeless strip of concrete miles from anywhere. Slowly the cars inch toward the toll, the drivers ready, the stained bills sweating in their hands. Wonder...

  13. history
    (pp. 61-67)

    how did I end up here what was I searching for alabaster skin like a dinner plate and her 24/7 lover come rain or come shine literally some kind of oil derrick all stainless steel and mechanization cold struts and gleaming www the apparatus two-faced like January god of doors god of orifices [“for his hospitality Janus was granted foresight” [strange how in Cassandra’s time foresight is a curse the god spitting in her mouth]] over fondue K. says when stripped of hair the mound of Venus becomes highly sensitized says quote it makes head unbelievable unquote I dip my...