Keep This Boy Safe


After Natalie Diaz’s “These Hands, If Not God’s”

Didn’t they catch you like soft nets—
like history, like ancient poems—
keeping your figure from shattering?
And didn’t you know it? Told from
your birth—smelling like incense
straight from the womb, or like
firecrackers spitting up the dark.
Overturned earth. Amitabha. Laughter.
You repeated the same four words.
You said, You will preserve me.
A mark lives on your wrist from your
second year of life. In a sense, it was
a reworking of your body: flames
like fingers baking and hardening
you—fire up, then glaze—china
fissures, bubbling skin, one arm still
tender, the other clinking like your
baby teeth against a spoon.
In the beginning, there was rain.
Lingering above the mud-flooded
paddies, a woman saw the fields
and wanted to play—And hadn’t
you wanted to know the care she took?
Her painstaking thumbs, these souls
lit like candlesticks, massive armies
springing from the ground? Didn’t you
pray for a vision of the moment,
knees pressed into a gold-trimmed
pillow? And when, later, another
woman submerged her one thousand
arms underground and raised eight
thousand soldiers from the dead,
didn’t you look for the words to ask
for more? There was Nu wa, Creator
of Mankind, Repairer of the Pillar
of Heaven—and then also
the bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara,
Goddess of Mercy, The One Who
Perceives the Sounds of the World—
Did you think once, as you asked,
Guan Yin, my thousand-handed one,
keep this boy safe—
that you were
raised by two women and their
stories, who gave you your skin,
yellow as the dirt from which it came?


Abigail Wang grew up in Bucks County, PA. She recently received her neuroscience degree in Pittsburgh, where she also studied creative writing. She is trying to decide where to go next. Her work can be found in Words Dance, and she reads poetry for Persephone’s Daughters.