By Cathy Linh Che

Cue soundtrack.

The undead include:

              my grandmother, my older sister,

              my uncle, who was a priest,

              four cousins, still children.

They eat the pomelos we set at the altar,

              all in a circle,

              peeling the membranes,

              dropping the segments into each other’s mouths.

I am the director.

The zombies don’t look like zombies.

Just my grandmother,

              unable to speak,

              the flies reanimating

              her body’s giving up.

Just my older sister, all grown now.

              She was a little VC sacrificed

              to show the depravity of war.

              She died and died and died again.

I yell, Cut!, and they ascend into heaven.

Makeup!  I call across the set.

I ask the artists to bruise the undead.

I provide a mood board, artist sketches

composed by my brother,

happy to paint again. It’s a family

production. My father fiddles

with the Super 8. He shakes his head

at the last reel: Too dark.

My mother in costume design,

her head down at the sewing machine,

a measuring tape hangs from the curtain.

She is burning incense,

pouring holy water into the iron.

She stitches the tatters and hand-hems the silk.

She is careful, but we are running low on time.

The light is starting to dim.

I call down my uncle, my cousins,

their faces at the side of the road—

the red terror, a tableau.

I tell them,

Here is the script. Act natural.

This is just like the story

of your lives.

View this poem online