Ai (Florence Anthony)--American


(1947-    )


Florence Anthony legally changed her name to Ai, the Japanese word meaning “love.” Part Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Southern Cheyenne, Comanche, Irish and African American, Ai was born in Albany, Texas in 1947.  She won the National Book Award for Poetry for her book Vice. She also has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Bunting Fellowship Program.  Her book Sin won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and her work, Killing Floor, was awarded the Lamont Poetry Award. Ai teaches and lives in Oklahoma. Her poem, “The German Army, Russia 1943” from Killing Floor appears in this section.


The Germany Army, Russia, 1943

For twelve days,
I drilled through Moscow ice
to reach paradise,
that white tablecloth, set with a plate
that's cracking bit by bit
like the glassy air, like me.
I know I'll fly apart soon,
the pieces of me so light they float.
The Russians burned their crops,
rather than feed our army.
Now they strike us against each other like dry rocks
and set us on fire with a hunger
nothing can feed.
Someone calls me and I look up.

It's Hitler.
I imagine eating his terrible, luminous eyes.
Brother, he says.
I stand up, tie the rags tighter around my feet.
I hear my footsteps running after me,
but I am already gone.