By: Lukas Bacho

To go outside I don a mask / the size of a human heart. / It’s become the law now. A turn in the wind / brings back Beijing: snow of pollen adrift, radioactive-yellow / cremation of God. In short, what you get / when too many boys love to burn. Back then, a window was just a cold knife / carving out the night, a place to cloak your manhood / in lieu of a man. Unmasked behind the curtain, / you could finally forget / the stench of your own breath. In Swedish a mask / is a creature with five hearts, burrowing / through the earth & breathing / through the skin. A mask will survive even when fragmented / like a poem. (Think of my torso hot / to the touch, a parenthesis whose opposite / is always in sight.) In Swedish a mask / is also just a mask. Memory as osmosis / of brain & body, midnight & motel room / so many stories high. / Pundits still debate whom our masks protect, / but you have learned this. Before helping others / you must secure your own. In Chinese, poetry itself / is a building: the radical for speech, the character for temple. / Let ours save a window swinging open / if we’re lucky, a curtain unraveling / in the wind? In Chinese I call you Comrade because it’s not the law / yet. O Comrade, rub your beads together & you’ll still smell / my affliction, how my name for you / implicates me. One character for sameness. One character for soldier / undergirded by a heart.