November Poetry: “War Department Theater” by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

Curated as part of the Adoptee Poetry Folio by Guest Editor Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
November 9, 2017

This November, to recognize and honor National Adoption Awareness Month, I've invited adoptee poet Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello to curate a folio of poems by 10 Asian American adoptees. This page features “War Department Theater” by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs. I invite you to take a moment to read her moving introduction to the folio here, as well as the other nine poems in this collection.

— Eugenia Leigh, Poetry Editor


ŸŸ Ÿ•    •



all personnel


a showing


War Department Theater at 1 p.m. this date



Gentlemen, to master the aerial

zoom into the microbial

Here you tunnel vision

Here you dry mount

a dyed fatale splayed across glass

slides unzips a cursive

No love letters, this girl

crawls inside and fuses

If unable to resist your urges

recall your blond sister in Montana

the sure shot preacher’s kid

your Rust Belt common sense

as you make surface contact

the ticking clock

tied to your inner thigh

where her spirochetes corkscrew in



Don’t go it alone, Casanova

Hold your position / in the auditorium

Flank VD / with a clean shaft

of light / to project a major / to protect us

Father says: Go pro, kid

if you dip in deep kimchi

Strike fast / a green mountain hideout

Look out for moose

chancres / hanger queen

a shell strapped to your metal abdomen

Whirr through gossamer / curtain the ground

From the cockpit / watch it

shudder / swallow

wound / womb

as you make a clean break


This piece was published as part of the November Adoptee Literature Folio. To see other works from the folio, please visit the table of contents here.


Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is an associate professor of creative writing and the program director of Race and Ethnic Studies at St. Olaf College. Her poetry collections include Paper Pavilion (White Pine Press 2007), Interrogation Room (White Pine Press 2018) and the chapbooks Notes from a Missing Person (Essay Press 2015) and the German-translated Necro Citizens (forthcoming). A recipient of grants from the Daesan Foundation and Minnesota State Arts Board among others, she is currently co-editing an anthology of auto-critical writing on kinship.