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Sample Poems by Laura Foley

Tientsin, December 1941

The night before his imprisonment,
after a truly Russian feast,
toasting each course with vodka,
he danced and sang all night.
In the rickshaw at four a.m.,
he wore his Manchurian fur coat
pulled up around his neck
against forty below,
each star frigidly distinct
in foreign constellations.
The chill Gobi Desert wind
blew Japanese sentries in too,
surrounding his house at six a.m.
where he slept like a child
beneath a warm Tibetan carpet-
the man who would be my dad,
who never slept so well again.


Dad made up stories
about a girl named Yasume.
at ease, in Japanese,
his favorite word-
the Japanese who, that day,
would spare him the bayonet.
Yasume on a flying carpet,
soaring over oceans
and countries, in sum,
the world,
powered by a word.

The Wrangler

Does the Wyoming sun shine hot enough to make me sweat,
in my red-checked cowgirl shirt and dungarees?

As he holds the rope controlling Thunder, does he patiently explain
my pony's name in his sonorous voice, Born in the midst of a storm?

Do we stop at an icy stream to dismount,
shucking our boots, as we prepare to wade,

a new word I repeat with sudden feeling,
as my feet freeze, as I see my first word at three.

Does he lead me gently as he did the pony, to sit shivering
while he gathers wood to build a fire to warm my feet?

Does he intuit what I like, or do we share the same taste
for fire-roasted hot dogs without mustard, ketchup?

Does he help me pull my boots back on,
teach me to mount the pony on my own?

Does he teach me how warm a father can be-
unlike mine, in his chilled city penthouse?

Prayer, 1943

Dad and his fellow prisoners
crouched under a shed,
its roof a sieve
of shrapnel holes
allowing rain
they didn't notice
any more than hunger,
in their concentration
on pawns, queens, bishops,
rooks they carved
from discarded
toothbrush handles-
from their mouths,
to God's ears.