Three Poems by Cathy Linh Che

January 25, 2022

Photo by Guido Jansen on Unsplash


Zombie Apocalypse Now: Prologue 

On the boat we flee the hordes—
in the rear view, 

zombies eat up 
the left-behind. 

The Americans left 
three years prior. 

Now tanks roll into the capital. 
They raise a new flag. 

We are cast into a film 
about our own apocalypse. 

We are dutiful in our portrayal.


Zombie Apocalypse Now: Pandemic

Pan is the god of the wilds, 
shepherds and flocks, rustic music, 
a companion to the nymphs. 

During the virus spread 
that can kill my mother, 
she laughs, impish. 

She has enough toilet paper 
in the shed out back 
to last six months. 

Every trip to Costco, 
every coupon for Charmin,
(designer sheets for one’s asshole), 

every sale at 99 Ranch— 
she’s got enough food & water
and paper to last the apocalypse.
Even if the paper were to run out, 
she still remembers 
how to do it, 

with leaves or dried clumps of dirt 
scavenged somewhere on the way 
to the outhouse. 

In Vietnamese, to take a shit is đi cầu— 
to go to the bridge. To drop your meal
into the mouths of fish 

congregating in the churning river below. 
My mother has lived through enough 
curfews & lockdowns to know 

to be ready for the moment. 
In Los Angeles, the stores have rationed: 
one of each item per person. 

Limits are meant to be gamed. 
She’s lived a life of saving, 
scrimping, she lives

for the ferocious pleasure 
of squeezing more 
from the meat of a penny. 


Zombie Apocalypse Now: The Extras Commentary

I bought an ounce of gold
with my extra money. Also,
a radio, a watch, some clothes.
Before the film, I had two shirts, 
two pairs of pants: one set for wearing,
one set for the wash. We were refugees. 
During our first escape attempt,
I left my suitcase on the boat.
The owner called the Viet Cong.
I lost everything. 
I went to Saigon. I wore a gold ring.
I asked your aunt to help me sell it
for fabric, which I sewed into another set.



Cathy Linh Che

Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James Books), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.