Lee Ann Roripaugh
Aubade: A Mapping/ Jishin-no-ben



You dream you’ve been assigned to care

for a pangolin: spiny anteater, artichoke


of gold with bright leaves for scales.

You love the way it spirals into


an artful coil at the bottom of your bed,

how it walks upright on its hind feet,


its pink and whip-like spaghetti noodle

of a tongue. But then its scales start to


fall away (one by one, one by one) before

it simply vanishes: going, going, gone.





Goodbye to the sense of self as scapegoat,

black sheep, troublemaker, and bad seed.


Goodbye to being the thorn that abrades the side,

a stinging burr embedded beneath the saddle.


Goodbye to being the one who never fails

to disappoint, the swallower of bile,


the expired ordnance, the detonation chamber.

When she no longer recognizes you, who


will you be? How will you recognize your-

self in the shattering mirror of her face?





Leaving Las Vegas, New Mexico, you

pass the bear sleeping on the highway—


a round, brown mound, cheek pressed to asphalt,

claw partially open, trucks whizzing by.


By the time you realize the bear isn’t sleeping

it’s disappeared in your rear-view—the ghost


malingering, hulking and gloomy, depressed by

the sequined mariachi in Pueblo, uncharmed by


the mountain in Alamosa that looks like a face:

upturned, smoking, French-inhaling clouds.





Why is it so hard to know when the last time is

the last time? Your beautiful tortoise-shell cat


who became depressed, starved herself to a skeleton

the summer you spent caring for your parents;


your father confessing he’d never forgive you

for not letting him drive after the stroke, after


the dementia, saying we don’t want to see you before

hanging up the phone; the bewildered ghosts


of people stacked in refrigerated trucks. Did any

of them know the last time was the last time?





A disconnected wind phone  in a hilltop garden

overlooking the ocean in Otsuchi, Japan, where


tsunami survivors come to talk to their dead.

The rotary dial phone, cracked receiver mended


with masking tape, in your parents’ kitchen,

your father’s ashes resting in his chair at the table.


One year you were in love with fog, its chilled mists,

sinuous vapors, the delirium of both presence


and absence—how you kept obsessively searching

for signs, secret messages in your SPAM filter.




Found In Volume 52, No. 01
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Lee Ann Roripaugh
About the Author

Lee Ann Roripaugh’s fifth volume of poetry, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50 (Milkweed Editions, 2019), was named a “Best Book of 2019” by the New York Public Library, selected as a poetry Finalist in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards, cited as a Society of Midland Authors 2020 Honoree in Poetry, and named one of the “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections in 2019” by Book Riot. She is the author of four other volumes of poetry: Dandarians (Milkweed Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin, 1999). She was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series.