[“Mai, the dawn!”]

by Sophia Terazawa

—a short film

Insects trill
darkened frames.

Fade in. DIVA sits
behind netting. Twilight.

Đàn nguyệt. Two-stringed
moon parlays her voice

accompanied by subtitles:
Where did you fall? When you 

fell, did a nightingale
appear? Cut to montage.

Camphor, warbler on
twigs careening away,

et cetera. True, she says.
They exacted us 

to speak. Did you speak?
Don’t answer that. Go

concealed in lamps stained
annatto orange. Then

suppose this dawn
nine generations ago

was truly icy,
bone brittle, would you

walk north on your knees
toward the Forbidden Gates?

Would it take a month?
At the prison, would you

beat your chest calling
out your son’s name?

Cut to montage. Agar-
wood chips fluttering,

hand opening a book,
et cetera. Suppose

our torturers left
long before this.

Do you understand?
A pre-recorded sound: 

Applause far, far
away like locusts 

cut from paper. You
laugh but don’t know why.

Published on December 5, 2023