by Sunny Vuong.
Both the falling and the flying weave effortlessly between the lines of Mandy Tu’s surreal and somber poetry. In a gentle eulogy, equally portrayed as an ode to love lost, Tu’s words compel her audience to consider the death of what once soared in raw, yet idyllic, stanzas. “We rest our heads. We wake up / hungry,” Tu writes, a confession to what remains of bloody nests and stained feathers. Tu’s work doesn’t shy away from pulling the reader startlingly close, and her entrancing use of language bares both matters of the body and quiet heartbreak.
In “An Altar For Our Love,” Tu depicts the aftermath of a quiet and decomposing heartache with the stark image of a long dead bird and its nest. With a reverence for the scene, Tu writes: “Close by, a pile of bones, dragged / and discarded. We bow our heads in obeisance, / hold a moment of silence.” Tu’s poem encourages her audience to hold still as her words sweep us under their silent and aching undercurrent of the malformed corpses of what remains of the things that we loved, “red as funeral roses.”
“Touch is tumultuous. / Too worn out / with mistakes / to get it right,” Tu states, hushed in her conclusion of “Touch.” Like a fleeting brush of skin against skin, Tu’s poem dances upon the meeting of harsh and jagged bodies against each other. With gorgeously feverish imagery, Tu writes tenderly of “girls with lips / like heliotropes” and the wearily burning contact of bodies made “of summer parts.” Mandy Tu’s immersive portrayal of touch pulls her audience into a similar trance of quiet, but slowly simmering, want.