Poetry

Tim Tomlinson – poems from “Requiem for the Tree Fort I Set on Fire”

OCTOBER 16th 2017

 

At Night, after the Screams

 

wake us

 

we hear him walk

to the kitchen,

 

hear

 

his callused feet scuff

the hardwood floor, hear

 

him mutter curses

at the carpet,

its edge

 

perpetually curled, hear him

go

 

silent

 

on the linoleum

of the kitchen

floor.

 

So much is hidden

 

by our mother,

 

in closets

behind cans and boxes.

 

So much

 

that he loves—

 

Mallomars, Mr. Chips,

Hostess Twinkies.

 

We hear him

rummaging,

 

rummaging,

 

the cans clinking,

the boxes tearing open,

and his hands,

 

his thick

callused hands

ripping

 

through wax paper

and plastic packaging.

 

Hear

the refrigerator suck

open

 

sense

its light through the cracks

of our bedroom doors.

 

When he stands

in that cold light,

when he upends the milk carton,

when he douses

the fire

 

in his throat,

does he wonder, as we

do,

 

what made him scream,

again,

this time,

 

his mother’s name?

 

 

~

Blood Bank

(after Dorianne Laux)

 

When I was sixteen years old and did not

need sleep to feel rested, or a job for

money, I joined the veterans outside

the Camp Street Blood Bank at 7 a.m.

where they smoked cigarettes peeled off

the cobblestones and drank MD 20-20

from pint bottles. They wiped their mouths on

the greasy sleeves of fringed jackets or jungle

cammies, looking for a piece of cardboard

or some old magazine to slap on the spit

and piss and vomit laminating

the sidewalks they slept on. I did not feel

soiled by the filth on their fingernails,

the grease in their hair, or the gravel in their

throats. I was enthralled by the lies they told

about where they’d been, what they’d seen, how

many they’d killed, and the way they told those

lies, as if they believed them. As if I

believed them, too.

Inside the clinic

we reclined on hard gurneys, flies lining

the rims of Dixie cups filled with urine.

“Shame, Shame, Shame” on the radio,

unlicensed nurses in tight white uniforms

dancing the Bump between rows of our

worn-out soles. They pushed thick cold cannulas

in our arms and our bloods drained into

plastic tubing. Arterial blood, slow

and thin. Blood over the legal limit, blood

so dirty it had fleas. Blood of our fathers

who’d disowned us, blood of our mothers

whose faces we’d failed to erase. At night,

I’d be back on Bourbon Street, a pint low,

a dollar flush, Buster’s beans and rice glued

to my ribs. Blue notes from clarinets

and guitars joining the termites spinning

in the halos of street lamps, go-cups crowning

the trash cans and dribbling into the gutter

with the butts and the oysters and the sweat

off the shower-capped jheri-curled tap

dancer from Desire Project scraping spoons

across the slats of a metal scratchboard.

Hawkers barking at the swarms of tourists

gawking at strippers in storefront displays,

and the runaway girls at the topless

shoeshine spit-shining white loafers

on the feet of insurance agents from

Mutual of Omaha. The veterans,

my blood brothers, they’d lurk in the shadows

and scan the sidewalks for half-smoked butts,

and I’d help them put together the lies

they’d tell to strangers tonight, and repeat

to me in the morning, forgetting half

of those lies were mine, and I’d forget, too.

 

 

~

Morgan’s Bluff

 

At dawn the gulls laugh again.

 

Two gray angelfish ascend …

… kiss the surface …

… recede …

the water’s surface wrinkles.

 

Pink light separates the gray sky from the gray sea.

Enormous clouds form like the aftermath of great explosions.

 

How pensive this daybreak,

a grenade without a pin.

 

In a needling insect heat the dawn’s final breeze fades

 

A jeep’s lights flash on, it backs out of the commissary.

 

Pelicans lift from the pylons.

The Cuban whore retreats up the Bluff Road,

her sandals dangling from a finger.

 

~

 

Night Dive

 

Once on a moonless night

I lost my companions.

Their beams were bright

but I’d edged over

 

an outcropping into

darkness and touched down softly

on a rubble ledge

where the wall pulsed

 

with half-hidden forms, eyes

on the ends of stalks,

spiny feelers testing the current,

feather dusters

 

vanishing

in a blink,

spaghetti worms retracting.

So sadly familiar—

 

things I desire withdrawing,

their forms

disappearing

the instant

 

I extend a hand.

The reef folding into itself

like a fist. Then,

from the stacks of plate coral,

 

the arm of an octopus slid,

and another, two more,

reaching

for my fingertips,

 

my palm. The soft sack

of the octopus followed,

inching nearer,

her tentacles

 

assessing

the flesh of my wrist,

my arm. My heart

pounding. Turquoise pink

 

explosions rushing across

the octopus’s form. At my armpit,

she tucked in,

sliding her arms

 

around my neck

and shoulder, her skin

becoming

the blue and yellow

 

of my dive skin.

She stayed with me

such a short time,

her eyes,

 

those narrow slits,

heavy with trust,

and my breath

so calm, so easy.

 

Above,

my companions

banged on their tanks,

summoning me to ascend.

 

~

 

Tim Tomlinson – poems from “Yolanda: An Oral History in Verse”

OCTOBER 13th 2017

 

The Storm (Father Hector, San Jose Nov 8 2013)

 

When the water came

I was alone hiding, taking cover,

anticipating that the roofing might not hold,

worried of dying.

 

The water came

the strong winds howling, shaking the whole place,

white mist like needles piercing through my skin.

I’m going to die in this place.

 

Later our neighbors came

scampering climbing shouting panicking.

This is okay, this is good—

there’s somebody to tell my relatives

 

I died this way.

 

~

The Giant Claw (Beatrice Zabala, 16, Palo, Nov 8, 2013)

 

Before the giant claw came, I was inside

the comfort room with my grandmother.

She was praying the whole time. My parents

called us to transfer to a safer room,

but the winds kicked up, slamming on our door.

The wind was like a drunken man punching

the door, kicking it, trying to rip it apart.

The strong winds against my father’s strength.

 

Then suddenly, I felt water on the floor.

I thought fresh water from the river, it

didn’t smell salty. It started to rise,

to our knees, our waist, our chin. Salt water.

How was it possible? The sea was almost

a kilometer away! Then, the giant claw came.

 

~

 

The Surge (Zenia Dulce, 46, Professor UP Visayas. Tacloban, Nov 8, 2013)

 

I called to her,

I called to her and then

we held each other’s hand

 

and then suddenly the water under her

inside the house it was eating up the whole house

and she said oh my god

 

and then suddenly

one wave washed her down then another wave

another wave brought her up

 

so I held her

another wave put us both down together

with the whole house

 

so all the house and us we were under

and we did not know what was happening to us

but we held on together

 

we are both safe she knows because I am holding on to her

I give her a signal to hold on tightly

and then we were engulfed by the water

 

and then we tried to go up

once we neared the surface I released her

so that we would be able to have the chance to crawl up and swim

 

well the water was actually pushing us up together

I was telling her to it’s OK you release

so she released her hold on me also

 

and we resurfaced but the problem

we were both trapped big debris uh, maybe big debris

like this four or six like this

 

I don’t know it’s big I was scratched

this is still the bruise uh what do you call this my remembrance

and that was how many months ago that was six months eight months ago

 

and that bruise is still there

I was struck here also at my back

and she was struck at the neck I heard the snap

 

like that super loud

and then there was no emotion on her face

I saw the blood blood blood coming out from her nose and mouth

 

I thought oh my god she’s dead

and then slowly slowly

she was sinking

 

~

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of a poem by Wang Anshi

松间

 

偶向松间觅旧题

野人休诵北山移

丈夫出处非无意

猿鹤从来自不知

 

  • 王安石

 

Among the Pines (On Being Recalled to Office)

 

Among the pines chancing upon old inscriptions,

Ignoramuses stop crowing my remove to northern mountains.

The man now comes forth not without purpose –

such as apes, cranes, never could understand.

 

  • Wang Anshi  (1021-1086)

~

Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天

(translated by Shelly Bryant)

——为2013年国家图书馆全国阅读运动“读吧!新加坡”而作
蔡志礼
混沌天地
缓缓地张开
沉睡千年的眼
浩浩沧海
渐渐凝成万顷桑田
似曾相识的飞燕
来自天上来自人间
来自同一片天
青涩少年
改朝换代后
早已风霜满面
抬望眼啊
皆是不轻弹的英雄泪
洗也洗不尽的怨
所有悲悯所有爱怜
来自同一片天
不同肤色
不同的语言
不一样的祖先
命运嬗变
上天要我们紧紧相连
赤足走在赤道边
一样阳光一样雨露
来自同一片天
不能再叫
梦沉淀搁浅
不能再叫
悲情继续蔓延
撒下心愿
全情灌溉用爱耕心田
仰望渺渺云河边
明月微笑星光点点
来自同一片天
摊开浩荡的历史长卷
翻阅盘古开天的容颜
任豪情无限壮志伸延
让心与心手和手相嵌
我们拥有同样一片天
祸福与共
直到永永远远

The Same Stretch of Sky

written for the 2013 National Library Board “Read! Singapore” campaign
a world of chaos
slowly opening
eyes that have slept for a millennium
vast sea
gradually condensing millions of miles of mulberry fields
deja vu
coming from earth to heaven
from the same stretch of sky
sentimental youth
after the regime change
faces already covered with frost
lift your eyes
aren’t these the flickering tears of a hero
and the resentment that can never be purged
all the compassion
all the sympathy
all the affection
from this same stretch of sky
different skin color
different language
different ancestors
Fate’s evolution
– heaven wants us tightly intertwined
barefoot on the equator
the same sun
the same rain
from this same stretch of sky
never again to allow
dreams to founder, stranded
never again to allow
sorrow to continue to spread
scattering the dream
love fills the irrigation channels
cultivating the heart
watching the river of clouds above
the moon smiles in the stars’ twinkling
coming from the same stretch of sky
spread the scrolls of the chronicles
read of Pangu opening up the heavens
with all our lofty ideals
let heart and heart
hand and hand be joined
we all have this same stretch of the sky
our shared good fortune
now and forever
(Reprinted with thanks to The Arts House, Singapore)

~

 

Chow Teck Seng – 出入停车场 (translated into English by Yong Shu Hoong)

SEPTEMBER 29th 2017

  

车子持续倒退

到位、无回、不悔

不能够有发光的青春碎片

火箭降落了

回忆开走了

柏拉图像飞走的伞

停车场常伪装为一枚句号

习惯系上了安全带

预备在车程中观赏一段周而复始的连续剧

雨刷的动作让我以为这是一出怀旧电影

预感是影印出来的大海

眼神是指南针

望后镜中的目光终于接近最熟悉最普通的温柔

不是错位,不能忘记回过身

 

原来停车场亦不是逗号

明天和旅程不会重复

街灯和拉上的手控刹车器轻声告诉你

停车是一道暧昧不清、赤裸的分号

停顿的微光和下车的脚步声

连身裙似的把错落情节依次缝起

 

下雨的停车场像停尸间

送走的尸体刚走掉的幸福

 

 

Entering/Exiting a Carpark

By Chow Teck Seng

 

The car keeps backing

into position, no return, no regret –

no longer possessing the shiny shards of youth.

The rocket has landed.

The memory has wandered off.

Plato, like a flyaway brolly.

The carpark frequently disguises itself as a full stop.

Habitually buckling up the seatbelt

preparing to enjoy a repetitive miniseries during the journey –

the wiping effect makes me think of this as a nostalgic film.

Premonition is a xeroxed sea.

Between the eyes, the needle of a compass.

Within that rear-view glance, finally a most familiar and mundane tenderness.

Not a dislocation, but unable to forget ever turning back.

 

So the carpark is also not a comma.

The next day, as well as the journey, will not repeat.

Streetlamps and the pulled handbrake softly inform you

that a car, stopping, is an unclear and naked semicolon.

The taillights and the sound of alighting footsteps

stitch up the misaligned scenes like garment seams.

 

The carpark, in the rain, is like the fleeing

happiness of a corpse that has just left the mortuary.

 

(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)

 

* previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012)

~

Yong Shu Hoong – The Path of Least Resistance (translated into Chinese by Chow Teck Seng)

SEPTEMBER 25th 2017

The Path of Least Resistance

 

Sit back, relax… unclench the fists.

It’s peace of mind we’re paying for –

and we’re paying a lot – when we

entrust the task of navigating these

unacquainted roads to an assigned

driver-for-hire. But this hardly

justifies our trust in the system; or

is it a collective resignation to fate?

Fate, as in the game of chance,

or divine will that we assume will

always be to our advantage. Breathe

in and out, as our van weaves in and

out of traffic flow. We’d like to think

the driver knows what he’s doing,

though he doth tootle on the horn

too much, especially when he’s trying

to warn any car that gets in his way

and needs to be overtaken. It seems

one false move by one of the many

stakeholders could spell disaster, yet

everything hangs in balance. Faith,

I tell my agitated heart, faith! Let

nature – the human kind included

– take its course, as man and car meld

into a single deity, all-seeing, that

rips us through the slaughter of sun

and sheets of rain, passing road-

hogging tuk-tuks along mist-shrouded

winding roads… before providing

in these verdant hills and plantations

an elixir for the violence of our pursuit.

 

 

 

通往无碍之路

 

坐下,放轻松…握紧的拳头松开

为了安心 就用钱来买方便
却买出个代价  这是我们
到陌生地  把驾驶工作 交托

某一随机安排租车司机   的结果 这还

真辜负了大家对体制的信任 或说
这只是种集体宿命行为?
命运  一种或然率的游戏

抑或 一种我们总误会  会天从人意
的天意    来 来  深吸一口气

再呼气   小包车在车流中骄纵

蛇行   我们本该信任

身为司机  当知其所当为  即使

他的连环追命喇叭  按得着实

过多  而且是为肃清自己前行车道  防止

任何挡路、意欲超车者介入  仿佛

警告其他公路使用者  千钧一发

错误  将导致他们的灾难       信任
我告诉自己亢奋的小心脏  要信任
任一切  顺其自然   自是那种

人为的自然——人、车将

天人合一    成仙成佛  仿佛  人在做

天在看  我们如何穿透雨  穿过夺命的阳光

穿过所有在蜿蜒路上挡道的嘟嘟车

九死一生后   再为我们的横行霸道

用葱葱郁郁之山峦与稻田
豁然指引出   一条救赎之道

 

(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

~

Chow Teck Seng – 穿上 脱下 ——穿衣的哲学 (translated into English by Yong Shu Hoong)*

 

SEPTEMBER 22nd 2017

 

你脱下,我们穿上

穿上纯真,脱下端庄

美丽的幼儿园我们穿上校服

裹在一个哪吒还未被遗忘的年代

步向水漫小学学堂快乐的倾盆中

脱下原本刷了白油的帆布鞋

脱下,洁白的颜色如水脱下

脱,连濡湿的袜子都脱下

然后穿上明年,穿上成长

 

穿上睡衣、白衣蓝裙、衬衫、长裤皮鞋

穿上内衣、家居服、百慕达、拖鞋

扣纽扣、绑上腰带、拉平皱痕

拉上拉链、整理领口

女人画唇画眉、上妆

涂上香水、装上耳环

僧人穿上僧服、世人结上领带

树穿上像化妆品面膜的日光

穿上如网的年轮

脱下叶子、美貌

男人穿上军服,戴上爱国主义

脱下春夏秋冬

削了皮的苹果,《小王子》中摇尾的狐狸

蛇褪下过时的蛇皮,壁虎脱掉时间的尾巴

天使是穿上衣服还是赤身裸体?

魔鬼是戴上面具抑或是裸露狰狞?

 

在陌生的婚宴、政治正确的场合

我们最终穿上笔挺的西装

外套、面具,一副金框的眼镜

手中紧握着酒杯

酒杯,它戴着一副世故的光亮

 

 

Put On/Slip Off

– The philosophy of dressing

 

By Chow Teck Seng

 

 

You slip off, we put on

Put on innocence, slip off decorum.

For our beautiful kindergarten we put on uniforms

Tucked in an era where Nezha hadn’t yet been forgotten

Walking towards the school’s rain-soaked compound

Slipping off canvas shoes coated with whitener

Slipping off, the whiteness slips off like water

Slipping, even the wet socks slip off,

And then putting on the upcoming year, putting on growth.

 

Putting on pyjamas white shirt blue skirt dress shirt trousers leather shoes

Putting on underwear house clothes Bermuda shorts slippers

Button up, belt up, smoothen the creases

Zip up, tidy up the collar.

The women paint their lips, ink their brows, put on makeup

Dab on perfume, fix on earrings.

The monks put on robes, the heathens knot their neckties.

The trees put on sunshine as a cosmetic mask

Put on the years like a net

Slip off leaves and beauty.

The men put on army uniforms and wear patriotism on their sleeves

Slip off the four seasons.

The apples are skinless, the fox is wagging its tail in The Little Prince,

The snakes unroll outdated skins, the lizards shake off their timely tails.

Are angels fully-clothed or naked?

Is the devil masked or baring his fangs?

 

In wedding banquets of strangers, and politically-correct occasions,

We would still be putting on sharp suits

Jackets, masks, gold-rimmed glasses

Wine glasses tight in our clasp –

Glasses that wear a certain sophisticated sheen.

 

(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)

 

* previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012)

 

~

Yong Shu Hoong – Skin-deep (translated into Chinese by Chow Teck Seng)

SEPTEMBER 18th 2017

 

 

When a batch of my books arrives

from my publisher’s warehouse, I notice

 

Added annotations: yellowed specks

and blotches; I worry about customer

complaints over such imperfections.

 

A more understanding reader accepts

these pages as living tissues capable

of aging gracefully with the weather.

 

Nothing remains in mint condition

 

For too long. When I part my shirt,

I try to decrypt the coded message

of moles new and ancient; scars

of different vintages; spots, like the

smattering on the sun’s photosphere…

 

Then learning how Roman soldiers

used to chisel faces off statues, I

consider what memories I wish to

blanch from history, which words

to erase from skin. And enquire:

Should I advocate a return to that

shrink-wrapped state of newness?

 

Or otherwise remain, like grand

trees that lent me their name,

peaceable within reams of barks:

 

What’s mottled, and overlaid with lichens,

is a new body for my remaining journey.

 

深入皮相

 

当自己一批诗集从

出版社货仓 抵达家中 赫然发觉

 

竟新添注脚:大小黄斑

点点。我有点忧心,会否

有人客诉,是瑕疵品

 

善解人意的读者一定理解:

书页也如生死的皮肤组织

是阴晴干湿、岁月的优雅见证

一切皆不能恒久弥新

 

太久。像舍一件上衣时

我尽可能为一切新旧斑、痣

属不同复古潮流的痕  太阳敷于上

的一层浅薄光晕等  密码般解密

 

在知悉罗马士兵如何

自雕像上锥除一张张的脸后

我更思索自己会从历史中漂白

哪份记忆  把哪些文辞

从皮肤上删改剔除?并追问:

我是否还该鼓吹   回归

裹上透明包装纸  的那种新

 

又或,留。留如树会借我名字

留若树死留皮  成纸成册    留则

成就树之宏伟不朽  与强悍巍峨——

 

而那长苔、 长廯的将是我

留存人间最后旅程    的新肉身

 

(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

 

~

Annie Christain – Dragon Ball Z Censored for an American Audience: “One Night in Beijing”

SEPTEMBER 8th 2017

 

I seek out a woman so I can talk to her about her breasts,

and she says it’s brave of me to claim I see them.

She’s been growing flowers with her husband for years,

and she talks about the flowers like they’re the land of the dead,

like she’s afraid to get lost at midnight around them.

It’s decided it’s more acceptable for me to scrub her back.

She says: They’ll drink the blood but with flower roots in their hair.

She means her husband is tending to the flowers

while lying on his side.  I’m scrubbing her too hard but can’t stop.

Before this, I forgot dirt exists under cement roads.

To be more specific,

we’re both standing in Baihuashenchu Alley,

her back to me, no water. I’m just using a hairbrush on her back.

Harder, she screams.

Her hair takes on the quality of roots,

and I see now the tips are actually in the dirt.

How is there not any blood on her back?

But what’s in the ground is lapping up liquid.

We’re in this alley, and I see the key-maker

who’s sitting on his stool—he opens his mouth and a fly comes out.

I forgot what I did to her husband with my hands

prior to her smearing him with the paint roller.

She bends down to moan and breathe near him to simulate life.

She can travel any distance with her hair still in the soil.

I can’t get her skin tone right

after I realize she has a back where her chest should be.

When I saw her yesterday tending to the flowers with her husband

but looking at me for too long, I saw her shirt said HFIL,

but any kid can tell that it used to be HELL.

I look again, and just for a second I see a shadow

is actually a decapitated dinosaur.  This place is too much.

Are they timeless beings or just scientists who can bend light around objects?

I want to call her a gender neutral term,

so I say “elderly person,” and that feels right.

The grieving souls—wolves waiting for me at the gate

cascade up, a hideous arch. Frozen or displayed,

they end at the wall in a pile.

I am now where artists get their ideas.

She says: I picked this to be the last thing you see.

I’m not dying; I’m going to another dimension,

but I must leave everything here.

 

~

Jonathan B. Chan – four poems

AUGUST 28th 2017

take a walk

 

today after meeting a friend I

ambled through orchard road,

absentminded without a destination;

paused for an out-of-tune singer and

exasperated accompanying beatboxer;

wandered through lucky plaza curious

about the bastion of pinoy secrets; past the

rows of emerald hill bars inhabited by

expats and disgruntled white collars;

sipped a mojito in the masquerade of a

sanfran cable car; wove through shuttered

shops and dimmed stores; cast curious

glances upon fellow wednesday night

streetwalkers; peered into bank buildings

like art installations and furniture stores like

colonial houses; ventured to art galleries

that only allowed for window scrutiny;

thought about nothing in particular. the

adage that singapore has no soul is

reflected by the shiny artifice of its

shopping district: a grandiose veneer that

masks a system of transactions and

conditions. this is not the place to find

poetry recitals or aspiring bands or

bartending conversationalists or morose

comedians; this is not a place to expect

meaningful and heady exchanges (with

exception to dinner’s dialogue); the city

projects the image of what is expected of

luxury and commerce- a moving image

sustained without substance.

 

~

i need to know

 

 

to conversations that

meander through

chinatown festivals,

graphite stains

that mask

bashfulness, no,

to billowing ambition

wafting through

twice-boiled aromas and

bitter chocolate, no, to

trailing wordlessly

in hongdae thrift

stores, no, to unwitting

glances during mimed

raps, no, to untouched

garageband euphoria

between languid

afternoon smiles, no,

to the first time i

mustered what i

had and asked

if we could

sing together

 

 

~

road trips

 

billy joel on a mountainside path

singing of heartbreak and drink

amidst flanks of dust and rock

and well-dressed nepalese that make

ramshackle buildings and traffic disorder

(there are neither addresses

nor traffic lights but a cacaphony of car horns)

even more baffling. the momentary

discomfort of 10 hour journeys in

this claustrophobic

provides glimpses
of destitution and poverty and

masses of people and acres

of farmland that whisk past our windows.

we sip their chai, eat their momos,

chow mein, dhaal bhat;

our tourist’s novelty is their daily diet.

I wince at the

juxtaposition of dulcet

california tones and the

monotony of nepali workmen.

 

~

 

tanahun

 

open fields team with crumbling

rocks and crags; a farmer walks

by with a line of livestock-

our urban eyes jolt at the sight of

goats and cows and chickens

and those who tend to the

hopes of harvest. the local

pastor diagnoses them with

chronic laziness-

“they work for 4 months a year

and spend the rest doing little else”

would a taste of

salvation arouse them from

moribundity?

we offer our services-

a volleyball,

a football, a

guitar, they snap our photos like

zoo animals. they accept us

into their homes, perhaps

endeared by a foreign face rather

than a savior’s sacrifice. the

prayer circles assure us we have

scattered the seeds; we wait

for them to flourish.

~

Chow Teck Seng – two poems (translated by Yong Shu Hoong)

AUGUST 25th 2017

 

The following poems were previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012). 

 

轮回

 

时间是一条狗

一张   大口

即咬去   月的肚腩

于是每个晚

都注定是个新的缺口

 

还好,就十五天

月又养得白白胖胖

 

我们好象月

全身有被狗咬的伤口

 

  

Recycle

 

Time is a mongrel,

its wide-open mouth

gnawing at the belly of the moon.

So every night is

predestined for a new gaping hole.

 

But all’s well, just 15 days

the moon is fair and fattened again.

 

We are like the moon,

wounded by dog-bites all over.

 

(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)

 

~

 

饮食山水

 

三碗两碗

左手  一下撑起

雪山雪山

饭粒竟成雪屑飘飞

遇嘴而化

右手  则两下闪电

抓起满口饭

半个冰山劈开

 

偶然一匙汤水

自花瓷大碗

江海江海

油光涟滟,肉岩顿成天堑

泄流山腰逶迤而入

谁以春夏秋冬四法烹煮

则三两碟小菜   挥洒间

像蝶飞花丛

豆骸残肢斜斜飞出

花红叶绿一下被席卷而去

 

你意犹未尽

晴空打了个闷雷

手搓搓鼻梁

谈笑间   汤水成骤雨

山山水水

花花草草

一切尽在虚无飘渺间

 

 

Eat Drink Mountain River

 

Three or two bowls

are hoisted by left hand in one move.

Snowy mountain, snowy mountain –

the rice grains waft like snow flakes

dissolving in mouth.

Right hand, in two claps of lightning,

claws up a mouthful of rice,

splitting apart the mountain of ice.

 

The occasional spoonful of soup

is extracted from a large porcelain bowl.

The river, the river

ripples with an oily sheen; meat boulders as moats

the water wades past mountain-slopes to gush in.

Who would use the four seasonal styles of gastronomy

on two or three appetisers? Wavering

like butterflies among flowers,

broken husks scatter, only to be

whisked away with red petals and leaves.

 

Your cravings not yet fulfilled,

thunder reverberates from the blue.

A hand rubs the bridge of a nose.

As casual conversation ensues, soup becomes sudden storm:

Mountain, river,

flower, grass…

Everything fades into nothingness.

 

(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)

~

Jonathan B. Chan – three poems

AUGUST 21st 2017

 

hồ chí minh

 

motorcycles weave

like flotsam in a slipstream

anxious swarms nudging

through gaps, I twist

to avoid their brusque advance

as epaulette-bearing shophouse

guards glance furtively from

their stools. the humidity

is swift and familiar, local cacophony

splashed with tonal colour, food

painted with colonial hues-

the city whispers

“I’m not some war torn country.”

 

I slurp pho in a 6-villa compound;

I nod guiltily at limbless beggars.

a tremulous emotional current

envelops me at the war museum: the

claymore that’s accompanied me

for months rests indignantly in a glass

case. the trenches, jungle marches,

rifles held above crossed water:

I quiver with sympathy

for the vietcong

 

the new face of vietnam

is global: the young

bury their dead, epithets in

museum displays and lacquer

rendered with expressionist

technique. scars are masked

by korean cosmetics, echoes

drowned by the zing of

fast food (I am told today’s

youth could not fit in the cu

chi tunnels), moans and cries

swallowed in the optimistic

motorbike hum- it is more

fastidious to march to this beat.

 

market vendors jockey for

attention, food stalls wave

their laminated menus, old

cyclo peddlers grunt at

the chaos in the junctions,

acrobats leap on bamboo to

remember the pulse of

village life, I stand with unease

in the facsimile of a gangnam

department store.

 

the only

locals are

in uniform.

 

~

mahjong

 

after psle*

my tuition teacher

turned her center

into a mahjong den

“you deserve a break,”

she’d chortle,

teaching us to fling

thick tiles, eye one

another amidst

the click-clack of

washing, stack

tile walls as if to

guard state secrets.

we’d bet on things like

school postings and

scores, things so

important to a 12-year old

but inconsequential

in a game of mahjong.

we never did play again; our

teacher wary after they

complained, “teach our kids

to score, not gamble,” and

the humdrum of

secondary school

encroached on our aptitudes

the clicking of tiles a

coda resounding in

emptied chambers.

 

* Primary School Leaving Examination

 

~

boyhood

 

harbinger: starched fabric rests on

shoulders, the auditorium a

formidable patchwork of stern and

naive, a song resounds- the

lyrics wrestle on your tongue

 

arborescence: nurturing gentlemen is

like pruning bonsai- every red stroke

a snip, every reprimand a shear,

pressure toughens the bark, but can

trees water themselves?

 

supine: there’s a compulsion to let

the winds bowl you over- you’ll learn

to say no after calling it quits too

many nights, red retinas tracing

the reasons not to get out of bed

 

epoch: a young man has clear

milestones- graduation, enlistment,

parades. we are not empires that wax

and wane, we look on zeitgeists with

face-grabbing bemusement

 

denouement: typing poems in an

empty bunk, ignoring the thought of

arrested development, cautiously

contemplating what comes next,

short answer- more of the same

 

 

~

Yong Shu Hoong – two poems

(translated into Mandarin by Chow Teck Seng)

AUGUST 18th 2017

 

Negation

I’m not a vegetarian
but I go meatless
on occasions for
the best intentions.
Eating too fast is
another sin. When I
bite my lip and blood
corrupts my vegetables
I’m no longer even
a vegetarian for a day.

 

 

我非素食主义者
但因缘际会,总有些时候
为一些美好的诉求

戒肉
自然,吃太快
也是罪。当我
咬到唇 血
染口边蔬菜时
那日 我已断非
一清白的素食者

 

(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

 

~

 

Meat Joy, 2014*

 

 To put it blandly, it is

just lunch.

 

But armed with a pinch

of salt, I can certainly try

to unlock all the flavours

and serve a fresh perspective.

 

Take for example, a wedge

of New York City, stuck

in a mall in Hillview where a few

HDB blocks used to stand,

before the entire estate

was roundly erased. After dust

settles, the new sign proclaims:

Dean & DeLuca. A chain of

upscale grocery stores, first

started in SoHo in 1977.

 

This is 2014, 11.30am.

 

I’m having my $18 burger.

The beef is so thick that

well-doneness doesn’t seep into

the patty’s core. I survey

the large plate, and consider how

best to devour the grub.

 

My mouth isn’t wide enough.

 

So I pick up the knife

to draw blood by carving

through the meat, reflecting:

 

How well this red sap

must look, when splattered 

across the floor space

of gleaming white marble!

 

I feel like having a brawl

 

 

With the taste of violence

upon the wingtip of my tongue.

But there’s no worthy opponent

here – only nerdy schoolgirls

fretting over homework, and

straight-laced office workers

celebrating Happy Birthday

with a silly cupcake bearing

a desolate candle.

 

I want to get up

and blow out that flame

wavering for way too long

under someone else’s nose,

but I’m too filled to move.

 

I do not dare to request

for more hot water to douse

my half-spent teabag.

 

Lunchtime is officially over

 

If not for the haze, lapping

menacingly against full-length window.

 

* This poem appeared on the website Kitaab and in Yong Shu Hoong’s chapbook, Right of the Soil (Nanyang Technological University & Ethos Books, 2016), but without the Chinese translation.

 

无肉不欢,2014

 

说白点, 这
不过就是午餐

别太较真  就如一把
盐巴, 我会尝试
从新鲜的视角  去品
出最丰富的味道

举例来说,纽约市的斧头
餐馆,已深入
本地山景区的商场腹地
当然原本挺拔的几座组屋
已连根拔起 整个住宅区
也完满删除。尘埃落定处
竖起招牌宣称:
Dean & DeLuca
高大上的食品连锁广场
品牌1977创建于SOHO

现在是2014年,上午11点30分

我正啃食18元的汉堡
过厚的牛肉,肉饼内部
未能熟透。我眼观巨盘
的四周,思考 如何让口
绕道避开令人为难的血腥

唯我嘴断非血盆大口

于是动刀
雕刻肉身
划出血痕
引血反思:

当血水溅洒
雪白晶莹的
大理石地板
上,红将会
何等娇艳?

我但觉经历一场厮杀

舌尖遂尝
暴力的滋味
一一竟是所向披靡
此处,仅有乖乖牌学生妹数名
纠缠在功课里
一些一本正经的
公司职员在庆生:
为可怜兮兮的杯型小蛋糕
插上孤单的小烛影

我想站起
把窝在人鼻息下
摇摆不定 太久
的火焰 一口气给灭了
唯自己 实腹饱难动

我也不敢
要多点沸水
让未泡尽的茶袋 再来个水浸灭顶

午休已尽。该落下庄严的帷幕?

唯全景玻璃窗外
尚有雾霾,正肆虐着 掩埋天地如幕

 

(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

~

Holly Painter – five poems

AUGUST 14th 2017

Gather in the outcasts, all who’ve gone astray

 

In God’s preferred version

of this year’s Christmas card

I’m seven months pregnant

seven months on from our wedding

 

You’re a man now, by the way

with an untweezed moustache

and a paisley green cravat

that matches my maternity dress

 

at least in the sense that I’m red

and you’re green and God may be

color-blind as a dog but He knows

the Christmas color grayscale tones

 

from watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

We’ll watch it too this year, in God’s

preferred version of our Thanksgiving,

and not cringe at George Bailey’s

 

abusive tantrums but cheer at the final

family scene and God will smile

when we don’t pull out the tripod

for our yearly Christmas card picture

of two dykes and a dog.

~

When you tire of your homeland

 

Gather up one corner

and start walking away

 

Stroll through a neighboring autumn

Drag your native land over leaves

red and yellow like flattened peaches

 

Stretch your home spaghetti-thin

But careful! Not so fast!

 

When it becomes impractical

to tow your old life any farther

make your way to the national gallery

 

There find the painting with a thousand snaking rivers

and thread your country up to the oily horizon

~

Comfortable Grunge

 

All of us are soft and easily bruised

the flatulent boys of a kindlier youth

the sleeping patterns of fur and dripping noses

the careless rise and fall of mud-matted flanks

 

we’d bathe our lungs in comfortable grunge

wilting flower-weeds in pots that miss the sun

yellowed upholstery with its own nicotine cravings

 

on the radio, hear a recording of the tossing sea

imagine it in the stately grey of old BBC broadcasts

wonder about waves you can’t see

 

outside, the air is much too fine to breathe

donkeys chase nervous chickens through the yard

~

Defend the Holy General

His sons: the one a strapping lad,
a captain, the other his quavering ship,
whistling with wormholes.
Both throw the knuckles for something
to do but see in every comrade’s smile
only molars caked with gold

His vision: his keyring of monocles

His blood: warmer than he thinks
and harder to reach than his wife’s
her child’s bed leaking
into theirs every month
To him it only happened once

His kingdom: a ground so salty
the vegetables come up pickled
while the trees twist
gnarled like pretzels

Defend him still
the holy general
the general store
the storied past
the pastor’s wine
or swine that you are
surrender

~

Retrospective

 

Do you know the moment

when it occurs to you that

so-and-so from your childhood

 

must have been rich or ill or

pregnant or getting a divorce or

racist or not all that bright

 

and you realize that you are both

the reader and the unreliable narrator

of your own life story

 

and nothing you observe

can be trusted completely

even now when it is clear

 

that your math teacher was gay

and your pastor not aloof but shy

and your babysitter a drunk

 

and your mother always terrified

that something would happen to you,

her favorite of all her children?

~

Scott Satterfield – translation of a poem by He Zhizhang

AUGUST 11th 2017

 

Young I left home, old I return

Village accent unchanged but temples greyed, thinning

The children I meet know me not

Smilingly asking, From where comes our guest?

 

  • He Zhizhang (659-744)

 

少小离家老大回

乡音无改鬓毛衰

儿童相见不相识

笑问客从何处来

 

  • 贺知章

 

~

John Mulrooney – two poems

AUGUST 7th 2017

 

Watching the Detectives in Time of National Crisis – a Love Poem

 

When Omar Little gets killed

in the back of the, no, I’m not going to tell

I’m not going to tell you

in case you haven’t seen it.

And the reveal matters.

And so there is always a place

where the story starts

the waters arrived at where

the god declares she is a god

and you who are so good at

making something out of nothing

child of the general truths

at play in the fields

can tell me who the speaker of this poem is.

Newborns stumble out of the womb

already mourning the closing of Jersey Boys

all crying from homesickness.

The speaker of this poem was convinced

he was once filled with god’s breath

and that’s how he got addicted

to this breathing thing.

The country breaking in his chest

like a borrowed heart.

Satan, that old philanthropist

grins back from the TV screen

“Lenny Briscoe smiles and looks at the body”

says the augmentation for the

visually impaired.

the speaker of this poem –

her worries make a nest in her mouth,

the death of a loved one first imagined

the lines of their face

now suddenly the clutter

in an apartment being packed up for moving.

Whiskey’s best advice is to find

Venus in the night sky

and the speaker of this poem

is forever seeking that which is

not yet mortal.

Perhaps the poem is not a thing

but just a condition of things,

and Kanye West you see

is Hölderlin and Joey Bishop was

the red shirt of the rat pack

but that’s not who Jersey Boys

was about.

Detectives look for fingerprints

because they’re seeking fingers.

If I make this skull a lyre

will this light pluck the strings?

To truly love is to never speak

to honor with a poem is to trample

And this isn’t about you

but it is still to say I love you.

 

~

They Eat Fire

 

The flat Atlantic chalky in the sun.

New York, a cluttered interruption.

For a moment, you feel yourself a comet.

For a moment you feel falling,

as if this could not be by design.

Breath held, denied the rest of the cabin,

as if you might need it in some wet, darkness

that you will be plunged into panicking,

until the stiffened muscles of your buttocks

shiver into relaxation under the blunt

guidance of wheels on the runway.

And your mouth opens slight.

Lungs gulp the customs air,

and after making no declarations

your body settles in to the lounge chair

like you had arrived at Lourdes,

faithful, to drink their waters

of Bud Ice and bathe in their cathode rays.

“How do you top a year like that?”

asks the ad for a news program,

as if they had planned it all around their ratings;

revolution in June, earthquake in August,

elections tainted and war, war, war.

The bartender shuffles TV channels

like a deck of cards fanned out electronically.

A hurried traveler, laptop on barstool,

taps formica with a credit card,

causing the channel surf to touch ground

on nature programming.

An unbodied voice says that the early earth

was bombarded with meteors and asteroids,

accompanied by a computer generated image

of firey streaks falling over mountains.

They are researching volcano chimneys

on the ocean floor. In the coldest, darkest place on earth,

where previously it was thought there could be no life,

there are stacks of fire filled with organisms

that defy genus and phylum,

that defy the disciplines of science.

For so long they have survived.

They don’t swim but attach themselves

directly to the column, tunneling in,

rooted almost, and they seem to live on geology alone,

some nutrition there is in explosions.

Blind, cold, alive, they eat fire.

Channel switch bursts across screen.

Ted Koppel’s voice cuts in before

his shock of red hair comes into focus.

Going over the day’s bombings of Serbia,

and the strength of the Serbian resolve.

The night sky, a murky darkness

broken by the flash of bombs

seems subterranean, submerged.

The field interview – a man with a mouth

like a cemetery recounts though

tombstone teeth what makes his

brothers such great fighters:

They tunnel and wait, they hide and seek,

they dedicated. They eat fire.

~

Holly Painter – five poems

AUGUST 4th 2017

The Strait

 

There is no street where I live

The leaves of the houseplants rattle

A town of scorched earth and fire escapes,

the city beside the strait

 

Only the inner layers pasted over remain

Today is not a shade of anything

a city grown weary of rebirth

of the scent of raspberries and wood

 

The place that made your cars

will open itself to you tonight

on land that cannot be new

as the hush or the day or

 

the air blowing between rotting boards

that gird the soggier organs

the scaffolding of a rust empire

with wild dogs for sentries

~

Eight

 

Mammatus clouds hover over telephone lines,

fingertips poised to pluck the strings of a guitar.

 

Neil hangs upside-down from the tire swing

jabbing at roly-polies until his stick snaps.

 

He dismounts with a neat somersault and

brushes the woodchips from his ecto green windbreaker.

 

Next year, his parents will split. He’ll move with his mom

to the neighborhood where all the wild boys live.

 

I climb the slide, boots slip-squeaking,

and thump up to a landing caked with wet-pulped leaves.

 

He’ll take pills in high school and get suspended for fighting

while I rack up scholarships and slice myself with broken lightbulbs.

 

I scout the woods where we’re not allowed to go.

It’s almost dark and there are no birds.

 

A flashing needle strings white light across the sky

and then fades as a crash rends the day,

 

a smoker clearing his throat

before spitting out a thunderstorm,

and we run.

~

Beside the Church

 

Rain between the digging

and the burying meant

summer afternoons of

muddy swimming holes

 

We leapt from earthmovers

shrieking as we plunged underground,

ballooned our breath in our cheeks,

and spit out dirty bubbles

 

We sliced a worm with a spade

and the dead fell out

but we were small gods:

we’d made another worm

 

We sprawled in new grass

thin tufts in the dirt

looked straight up the rain

to the black

 

and imagined

dirt coming down

~

Feed Me

 

Feed me only what is necessary

What is tender might be necessary

 

Feed me the train like a chain of clay beads

encircling the lady’s green wrist

 

its boxcars brown as a burlap sack

caked with the mud of potatoes

 

Feed me the red you suck off a candy cane

leaving a stabbing white icicle

 

Then feed me the icicle

the seasonal stalactite

 

that drips itself to life and death

Melt it for me with your breath

 

Feed me your grab bag face:

your punched in nose and your

 

beautiful eyes that can only be

the churning surf you kept

 

Feed my teenage demand

that you be everything:

 

breakfast, lunch, and dinner

morning, noon, and night

 

Feed me only what is necessary

and all you are is necessary

 

I’d feed you too, I would,

but I can never be just another

 

warm-blooded host

that’s not paying attention

~

Apologetics of a College Freshman

 

To the termites of the last empire:

Sorry, but we chew our own cities now

inflate them in the mornings

sour apple bubblegum

and swallow them at night

not the other way around

 

To the tobacconists of the old century:

Sorry, but we roll our own now

stash Mom and Dad in the Christmas cupboard

and take them out to wrap around boxes

crease their edges and trim the excess

while Mom’s still flatly nattering away

 

To the factory farmers of yesteryear:

Sorry, but we grow our own now

sprinkle the seeds of children in classroom

plumbing – they sprout from the walls

absorb their math and science and then

we pluck them and send them to college in vases

 

To the bankers of ages past:

Sorry, but we save our own now

drop kisses in jam jars with buttons

and cursing coins and wishes and

every extra Sunday we save till the

end of our days and then spend

 

To the gods of a time gone by:

Sorry, but we are our own now

fathers, mothers, devils, angels

prophets, priests, chosen people

and if we seem a touch surreal

well, let’s be honest, so were you

~

John Mulrooney – three poems

JULY 31st 2017

 

At the Brooklyn Promenade

 

Blue clouds of the dusk sky

shimmer on the surface of the harbor;

placemats of blue lace on a bluer table,

and then shift back to something more

cloudlike; something less, being only

the things that they are, and reflections at that.

And what of it.  All day

sorting a crate of our recent past

which cannot go away

fast enough, dividing stacks

of almost identical diagnosis attempts,

a hundred pages of the unsaid,

layered blue of MRI prints –

a series of study sketches

toward an unfinished work.

This park is the triumph of making,

a template for Sunday afternoons

where I had guided her slowly,

so careful as to be clumsy,

along the promenade to sit

on a bench under Brooklyn Bridge,

its vast arc the manifest perfected

sum of some quantifiable knowledge,

because it was something she could do,

just to get out for a while.

Today, a man photographs

the cobbles along the walkway

littered with cellophane and

pink strands from a feather boa,

a newspaper soggy with urine,

its letters running like mascara;

these are all this day alone,

against the irreducible sky

and the splendor of structure;

what the wind has done

to make this day particular.

And these shapes changing

on the water like like or as

are not even, cannot be what I sing

because memory is death; it kills the things

you cherish or dread and replaces

each one with your memory of it:

a hollowness built of the real.

And suddenly it was almost me who

could not walk to a bench by the bridge,

although it never was,                                                

although my arms and legs

obey my commands,

do what I tell them but never what I want:

wrong and helpless,

I span one to the other

because all I can do is identify

make myself metaphor,

a thing that might look like,

that you think is but isn’t.

And I want to dive,

that marriage of plummet and jump,

in below the refracted sky,

to the water’s silence

and come out on the surface

that might make me one of

these changing things I cannot change,

which will erase my clumsiness

and redraw me as shimmer.

 

~

Autumn Walk After Jodorowsky

 

More métier en scene

than inchoate vagabond

some summer in the knees

some summer in green

 

and of course in the water

were protean secrets,

the day and clock pulse

still too small to retain

 

an atmosphere true but

in the forge of gravity

The Empress of autumn

sought the star, summer

 

plunged below and yellow

irises found hiding spots

and our eyes seeking them

confirmed that we all sought

 

the commensal beauty

and usefulness therein –

big fish and little fish

bandicoot and boa –

 

blood is protein knowledge

on autumn’s whistle stop

or winter’s all aboard,

but summer yes she bleeds –

 

rats and racoons wreak

havoc around her feet

cluttered under composts

of spring that winter nicked.

 

~

Poem on Madonna’s 50th Birthday

 

here is August soaked with reminder

that the world is material that changes

 

there’s a flag at half mast

for someone who didn’t even make the papers

 

the rainy season comes upon us

like it was the tropics like the

 

flutters and hums on Bleeker

were south beach waves and breezes

 

the flutters and hums on Bleeker

that becomes a material that changes

 

Paparazzi armies lay siege to the ineffable

dumpy men made of rain

 

make glimmer solid in a flashbulb

and Elvis Presley 31 years dead

 

waits with us to reinsert mystery

into the material substance of our lives

 

says with us we ache we ache we ache

comes to love us

 

as we come to love ourselves

by waiting upon those

 

we desire to both want and be

until memory strikes a pose

 

and crosses over the borderline

of our love.

~

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of  ‘鹿柴’ by Wang Wei

JULY 24th 2017

 

Deer Fall

 

Empty mountains – no one seen

yet echoing voices are heard

Setting sunlight enters deep forest

again lighting the moss green

 

  • Wang Wei

 

鹿柴

 

空山不见人

但闻人语響

返景入深林

复照青苔上

 

  • 王維

~

安琪 –某某家阳台

JULY 17th 2017

(A translation of this piece into English by Tse Hao Guang can be found here.)

我喜欢某
某某
某某某
我用它们代替我喜欢的某,某某,某某某
某+某某=某某某
某某某就是你
你在你家阳台望出去
望见春秋战国时代走来的一个人
一个女人
她在你家阳台望出去
望见春秋战国时代走来的一个人
一个男人
他们互相望了望,互相笑了笑,就走到了
秦朝、汉朝
和唐朝

~

Annie Christain – two poems

JULY 10th 2017

 

The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews: I’ve Seen You Handle Cocoons*

 

“[A man] shall not lie with another man as [he would] with a woman, it is a to’eva.”

(Leviticus 18:22)

 

Silkworm dung lines my gums for tea;

I clutch menorah for paddle.

 

Malka, give me mother-strength

to save the scrolls.

 

I could never lie with Yôhanan

as I lie with women—

 

our chewing mouthparts,

our tongues just wringed fiber.

 

My holy sparks dwell in him.

 

The first time I touched a boy,

I glimpsed pomegranate arils in the bowl

 

and felt beetles walk across my chest.

 

When I crushed them,

a monstrous insect leg broke

forth from my midsection,

 

ready to strike me at any time—

how I discovered my nature.

 

With faith, I could have spat into my hand,

clapped, and scored myself with a knife.

 

Instead, I, the most Chinese of the Chinese Jews,

love Silk Maker Yôhanan,

who sees me as a dybbuk.

 

It’s true I carve questions onto the bones

of a rooster during Passover

and leave my doorpost bare.

 

You bring the smell of juniper and ammonia,

he hissed at my belly while breaking his tools.

 

I burned this foreign body once to please him,

but new and stranger shoots emerged.

 

I imagine placing his hand there.

 

There is no Malka,

Just a mother who carved Shalom

onto my infant chest

before drowning herself.

 

Carry me away, Yôhanan,

if I wind myself up in the floating Torah;

 

the sign on my hand is twisted bark,

fringe, spooned over pulp.

 

I’ve seen you handle cocoons.

 

* First published in ICON

 

~

We Must Kill All Rats Before We Can Kill Your Rats*

 

When I’m up late mixing concrete, the little children who live inside the walls scratch out phoenix designs. I talk to myself to drown out their chants of white devil,

and never once do I mention the Revolution—only how the leaders put an end to starvation.

I explained all my problems to the apartment manager, but he just said: We must kill all rats before we can kill your rats. It’s true because the police only wiped out the local cat population after they had reached a tipping point.

To talk of starvation—my mom stopped feeding me when I was five because she was too busy sleeping with men to get free rations of chocolates and cigarettes. No wonder I ask the gods for more and more offspring—

no one pays attention to just one emaciated child.

Soon I was allowed to plug up all the rat holes in my apartment if I paid for the cement myself. Word of my strong character spread to all the parents on the block with left-overwomen daughters. Every mother I meet bows and gives me soft chicken bones and eggs preserved in ash and salt. I only take them because it means less food for her.

The guards told me with pride that they help all the sick mothers on my block. Just in case it’s true, I place bananas at the feet of Shiva gutting a mermaid-whore so I can convince the gods to make more mothers suffer alone.

I spend my time renovating my apartment, teaching English, shooting roosters bound to blocks of ice, or volunteering to improve society. Just yesterday Onion’s parents gave her gold earrings and pushed her into the closet where I was waiting to finally give them a grandson. I paid for those earrings myself.

Her male ancestors stood on a cloud and cheered me on with their demands for a male heir. I told her what I tell all the girls: I want to investigate your faith.

Many of these so-called cherished mothers here sleep stacked in silos that once stored rice. I shook their hands while the director of the senior center snapped some photos. The newspaper article said I was a doctor from a local medical university doing routine check-ups.

Western man monitors health of Bao Ming . . . .

Her kind won’t be safe anywhere in this world.

 

* First published in Skidrow Penthouse

Thanks to CR Press

 

~

Miho Kinnas – ‘He Who Loves Bullet Trains’

JUNE 27th 2017

 

If sadness has a shape, it’d be uneven.

Shin Godzilla steps, steps on houses, houses, houses.

Spatial memory builds along the track.

A missing piece is replaced. But.

 

If dream draws a line, it’d be disconnected.

Things don’t go as planned. Therefore.

A little fugue will ring at the next stop.

Shinkan sen

 

It’s too fast; my heart is still at Tokyo Station.

 

~

Nina Powles – two poems

JUNE 23rd 2017

 

The city of forbidden shrines

 

I was almost born in the lunar month of padded clothing

in the solar term of almost summer

in the season of ringing cicadas

in the city of forbidden shrines

 

almost spent a girlhood watching sandstorms

tearing through the almost golden sunlight

I almost scraped dust off my knees each day for fifteen years

almost painted paper tigers each year to burn

 

I could almost hold all the meanings of 家 in my mouth

without swallowing: [home, family, domestic

a measure word for every almost-place I’ve ever been]

like the swimming pool turning almost blue

or the mausoleum of almost ten thousand oranges

 

in the land of almost I would never breathe an ocean

never hold mountains in my arms

except in almost-dreams

in which long white clouds drift

almost close enough to touch

 

~

Forest City

 

They say they will build a forest city so that one day our lungs will know what it means to breathe. We won’t notice at first, just a windfall of flower stamens floating down around us one Wednesday afternoon. Then moss spreading through cracks in the pavement and vines curling around streetlights. Blossom trees leaning over balconies, reaching across inner-city highways. Yellow chrysanthemums floating inside water coolers, trees dropping ripe plums all over pedestrian crossings, painting them red. Ivy crawling down through the grates into the subway where I will climb over foxgloves and flowering aloes to get onto the train. We will carry umbrellas to protect ourselves from falling apricots. The street corner where we first met will become a sea of violets. The alleyway where we kissed will be submerged in a field of sunflowers all turning their heads towards us. The planes we saw flying overhead when we opened our eyes while kissing will be obscured by a canopy of giant ferns, the sound of their engines drowned out by leaves whispering. We will be unable to find the steps to your apartment among the plane trees. We will touch each other’s faces and realise our irises have changed colour due to the reflections of hydrangeas. We will retrace our steps to find our way home and when we cannot walk anymore we will lay our bodies down on the forest floor, skin against moss, lips touching the blooms, eyes open in the dark, imagining stars.

~

Xu Zhimo – ‘Listening to a Wagner Opera’ (translated by Shelly Bryant) 

JUNE 19th 2017
powers divine or demonic
bring forth thunderous
sounds, a raw howl
like waves on the wild deep;
hellish fires’ rumbles
thrill, like a leonine roar
commanding the seas to split
the skies rent ‘twixt stars and sun;
a sudden silence; only soft
sounds of pine forest
its gentle birdcall before
the cabin’s fluttering curtains;
silence, a portent overshadowing
a barren snowy landscape
o’erflown by a solitary bird
singing its sorrowful song;
in sorrowful song, the reed
flute’s secret seduction
like hoofbeats on a frozen
arid land, armor’s beating rhythm;
beating rhythm, a flood of sound
booming, crashing, banging
to signal a new epoch, the tune
of hoofs pounding and blood flowing;
it is Prometheus, the theft
and the rebellion, chained
to his mountain peak, each meal
dug out from his breast;
it is romance, sorrowful and tragic
it is love, devoted and loyal
all-consuming, universal and miraculous
all-surpassing love;
the artist’s inspiration
the genius of heaven
beyond all powers of explanation
lasting beyond human bonds;
a brewing gloom’s complaint
a raging holy love
a tragic compassion’s spirit
– the genius of the arts.
brilliant, furious, fervent, tragic
out of the forge of love
the artistic impulse draws
the peerless opera of Wagner
• Published in March 10, 1923 “Current News · Learning Light” Volume 5.3.8
† translated by Shelly Bryant, October 2013

听槐格讷(Wagner)乐剧

– 徐志摩

是神权还是魔力,
搓揉着雷霆霹雳,
暴风、广漠的怒号,
绝海里骇浪惊涛;
地心的火窖咆哮,
回荡,狮虎似狂嗥,
仿佛是海裂天崩,
星陨日烂的朕兆;
忽然静了;只剩有
松林附近,乌云里
漏下的微嘘,拂扭
村前的酒帘青旗;
可怖的伟大凄静
万壑层岩的雪景,
偶尔有冻鸟横空
摇曳零落的悲鸣;
悲鸣,胡笳的幽引,
雾结冰封的无垠,
隐隐有马蹄铁甲
篷帐悉索的荒音;
荒音,洪变的先声,
鼍鼓金钲荡怒,
霎时间万马奔腾,
酣斗里血流虎虎;
是泼牢米修仡司
通译普罗米修斯,
的反叛,抗天拯人
的奋斗,高加山前
挚鹰刳胸的创呻;
是恋情,悲情,惨情,
是欢心,苦心,赤心;
是弥漫,普遍,神幻,
消金灭圣的性爱;
是艺术家的幽骚,
是天壤间的烦恼,
是人类千年万年
郁积未吐的无聊;
这沉郁酝酿的牢骚,
这猖獗圣洁的恋爱,
这悲天悯人的精神,
贯透了艺术的天才。
性灵,愤怒,慷慨,悲哀,
管弦运化,金革调合,
创制了无双的乐剧,
革音革心的槐格讷!

五月二十五日■原载1923年3月10日《时事新报·学灯》第5卷3册8号。

 

The translation of this poem was originally commissioned by Lynn Pan for use in her research for her most recent book When True Love Came to China. She has generously allowed us to reprint the work at AlluviumWhen True Love Came to China can be found at Amazon.

~

 

Karolina Pawlik – poems from the “Migraintion” series

JUNE 12th 2017

 

my roots grow secretly
into a path
for lonely wanderers

 

*

the boundary evolved
and hope
is the only way in

 

*
an exercise in trust and patience
Lent
in the entry-exit office

 

*
word embolism
I learn to live
on moonless nights

 

*
haiku half-dreamed
Wet Monday morning
downpour on my old roof

 

*
less light
is more renewal
moon lesson at the crossroads

 

*
the only clarity
is of this night
received with gratitude

~

Ryan Foo – two poems

JUNE 9th 2017

 

I stopped.

 

1.

 

I stopped going to church at 17.

All my life, the link seemed tenuous, Jesus

didn’t hold on too tight and I hardly snapped along

to gospel anyway. They were strumming

different chords to mine, really.

Earlier, the holy ghost

of a girl had led her hips and lips to mine,

spectral communion on Sunday afternoons.

My catechism ended when I was caught and

stoned. He didn’t send any thunderbolts.

 

2.

 

I stopped going to temples and qingming at 18.

I decided that spirituality was too much work;

my grandfather, ever the investor, would probably

have set up a hedge fund by now. The Mercedes

we bought him would be swathed sacrifice along

with hell notes from six dynasties,

and his gravestone will still be

swept of cobwebs every year whilst his body lies beyond

recognition. Joss sticks become substitutes for cremations,

and the farce of bowing three times stands stark;

a naked emperor — my cousin grudgingly elbows me:

‘nobody ever finds love at a funeral.’

How about we care a little more for the living instead?

 

3.

 

I stopped respecting my family at 21.

Insolent fool, what do you know of struggle? You

spilled from my seed, and I raised you

from naught till now —

But Zeus rose up and imprisoned Kronus,

and Oedipus himself was a liminal figure

between sphinx and new gods, Laius.

 

~

 

punchup in a garden

 

what does it mean to have authority?

to bend and snap at the bough

from family trees to attention.

 

now titrate me someone who can lead

a household, muster and marshal.

i no longer need verbose phraseology,

 

nor half moves, nor pacifier

once again, shoved in uniforms

enthralled to sugared canes and dining chairs.

 

love, your bark is worse than your bite,

and the cold fertilises better than emotions. now

germinate anything but the withered shell that

 

threatens self-immolation before me today.

seeds for growth she sows, she says, but all she does is decay.

 

~

Juli Min – ‘Pictograph’

MAY 28th 2017

outside the window a man paints

grey stone tiles with water with

the end of a long brush

each square a house for a letter

 

pictograph,

on tiles further away

already drying, strokes, shrinking

turning into dots

 

the cafe is warm the sun

the yellowed gingko

leaves shaking below

JingAn temple, gilded

I, slow,

expanding around me,

bookshelves, books, magazines

becoming dots

 

he walks with a small limp

across the street

the thicket of gingko, French plane

 

leaves in the autumn

gilded like the eaves

of the temple after

 

a while

a light rain falls

~

Lian Hai Guang – Translation of ‘Constellations’ by Todd Boss

MAY 22nd 2017

Lian Hai Guang is currently a postgraduate at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Masters of Translation and Interpretation (MTI) Program, located in Singapore. He can be reached at lianhaiguang@gmail.com.

– Todd Boss

~

Shelly Bryant – five poems

MAY 19th 2017

 

Guerrilla

in my defense

ditches dug, mounds erected

smooth surfaces made rough

safety measures

preventing passage of hostiles

the scarred face of home

my safeguard

against invasion

 

~

 

7 March 3529

Kepler K20 mission arrives

at HAT-P-11b

then looks back, homeward

on Earth the descendants

of those whose jaws dropped

at the K20’s images

of the titan Saturn

note in despair

even Sol is not the lucida

in the probe’s newfound constellation

~

 

Images 2014

a stellar year

images

the Berlin Wall falling

finally

arriving

at Altair’s orbiting wards

while Attila the Hun

ravaging Rome and

Muhammed fleeing Mecca

descend

on Dereb’s planetary plane

lightyears crossed

distant eyes espy

movements of Earth’s people

long deceased

the same day Hubble descries

a star’s death throes

its exploding ecstasy

~

 

In the Reading Room at the Science Academy

The astronomy journal knows its audience. On the stodgy-looking cover, Luke Skywalker’s name and home planet in large, bold print. I turn to page 03-114, an article about recently-sighted circumstellar and circumbinary planets. I read: as of late 2014, all the circumbinary planets so far sighted are gas giants; none have rocky surfaces. 

I memorize the name Kepler 16B, the first transiting circumbinary planet seen by Earth eyes. Perfect for the planet in my short story. I wonder if anyone will pick up on the poetic license – my Kepler 16B will be inhabited, not a huge gasball orbiting its two suns.

Exoplanets in orbit around a single star in a binary system, the two stars orbiting each other once every century or so. I wonder whether Tatooine was meant to be circumstellar or circumbinary. Not well-versed in Star Wars lore beyond the films, I cannot answer the circumbinary-or-circumstellar question. I make a guess. Tatooine: transiting circumbinary planet (but not a gas giant). At least, this fits the sunset in that iconic scene.

The long hand draws near the 5 on the clock’s face. An afternoon, whiled away pondering the path of a planet that does not exist. “Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.” Owning the chide, I pack up and leave the Reading Room. Outside, the blaze of my single sun nears the horizon.

evening commuters

under a plane tree canopy

– standstill traffic
~

bound by metaphors

provided by my race

I think of his magnetism

as that which draws me

not noting its other

equally strong impulse

 

~

Verena Tay – four poems

MAY 12th 2017

 

relations blocked*

woman sits

Today hot. Lucky I rest.

artist draws woman sitting

In her curves, there are lines, and her lines, curves.

friend paints artist drawing woman sitting

Get right – shape, position, colour – you have a picture.

i describe friend painting artist drawing woman sitting

I see. I like. I write.

you read me describing friend painting artist drawing woman sitting

Your view?

* inspired by Liu Kang’s Artist and Model (1954). Oil on canvas. Collection of the National Gallery Singapore

~

 

insouciant*

slit-

eyed

you

suck

a

cigarette

curl your shoulders

fumes feed your

i me mine

beliefs

you

exhale

words

exploding        then       rules

till now

you

shock

language

and audiences have learned

applause

illiterate i

read only your body and

wonder how you

won respect when all you

do is

fuck off

* inspired by Latiff Mohidin’s Aku (1958). Oil on board. Collection of the National Gallery Singapore

~

Curated Five: Only in Singapore

Each pencil-charcoal shaded paper

Human form perfectly caught

Three profiles facing left

Two girls, one man

Two shirtless youths

One full-bodied, gazing left

One seated, turning right

Note their ethnicity

Together,

Black-white

Correctness

Too much

~

 

the road oft taken

roads are never equal. poets always claim:

wander to wonder, explore bent undergrowths,

discover divergence. the efficient truth is

we’re forest shrews scurrying black

the everyday path until we know well

how many steps taken to and from home,

where to swerve, not trip over dip-holes,

when to slow down, not fly over bumps,

and crash into our enemies’ mouths.

surprise is far too risky. can we survive?

ages hence, the woods can be just as glorious

by absorbing how way leads on to way.

evolved into blind mole rats, we’ve kept alive.

so why can’t we hold our heads up high?

 

~

 

Luis Morales-Navarro (莫路) – three poems

MAY 8th 2017

 

Nongfu Spring

Clusters of dust blossom with the winter

In my body there are kegs of Chinese beer

I inhale blue-white air

Walls drip sweat and all I want is water

The bottle a place in darkness

The forest trail

The wide bridge flowing with the currents

and the end of wilderness,

craving juices, gazing at plums that quench thirst

Springs melted from snow and ice on top of the

mountain converge underground,

moving along holes and cracks in the basalt

There are many aged boats

The spring adjusts the seasons with the wind of her soul

It dissolves silicon dioxide in surrounding rocks to form

silicate-type mineral water with low sodium

from beneath the volcanic basalt surface

purified through the rock stratum before gushing out from below

suitable for long term consumption

Clouds poured into her mouth

become words walking her gardens

Two drops on a leave laugh as if sharing an inside joke

all this came to pass with us

money plants creep in through the water

Unintelligible characters swim

Flowers are born, beautiful people surrounded by water

I ask Feng Xiaoyang about the Nongfu Spring

He says it doesn’t exist

~

 

Cuaderno Verde

for Claudia Mejía

Demonstrate your understanding in 511

a conversation with Borges

a petition from an old severe peasant

—after surfing for three years— in Nanjing

the emperor receives the patriarch of Hindustan

these happenings and these beings are momentaneous

their mansions raided corporal punishment

too feeble to talk playing decent go pre-dream

brought to the house confiscated poetry

on the road in particular, the datalogs

flake across the desk if one person committed a crime

revise the law if the household had seniors or children

—full of nihilism— the Bodhidharma:

I don’t know who I am. who is it?

three pounds of lino. the letter kills.

~

 

Wéixīn Man

I dreamed I was a profile. When I woke up I ignored

if I had a dream where I was a profile or

if I was a profile dreaming of being me

It all started when we looked at each other

with a special tactile chemistry

When the world crashes on my hand

other people and I are of the same womb

made me what I am

we are just good friends

I’m a wéixīn man

And we are still good friends

software for the purpose of finding you

wéixīn man with character amnesia

use it only as a backup

that its sorry was dancing

I close my eyes and there you are

When my hand laughs

I’m a wéixīn man, and I’m gonna say

You know the way it is

watching every glyph

content not for sale

“At thirty a man stands”

giving the right to use his content

with no fees or charges payable to him by them

export it everywhere in the world

Another wéixīn man

By its grace i am new man

And my song is filled with joy

Of its image I am a reflection

“At forty a man is no longer puzzled”

under rocks and a thousand places

in order to comply with applicable laws or regulations

his data may have already been disclosed

pack it in a crate and ship it off

because autocomplete software

A gust rises I’m a wéixīn man

With predictive text from the 1950s conquering my words

But we are still friends. The software studies my habits

And my answer sounds like me with character amnesia

like me at my most generic

~

Cyril Wong – three poems

MAY 5th 2017

Cyril Wong is the author of The Lover’s Inventory, and other works of poetry and fiction in Singapore.

 

On Universality

Ben Lerner writes in The Hatred of Poetry,

“Everybody can write a poem,” and asks if

“the distillation of your innermost being …

[can] make a readership, however small, a People …?”

Maybe because I’m not American

or because I was never a Universalist,

I’ve always thought, “Of course not!”

I write for you (as you watch your action-movie

beside me on a plane drifting through turbulence)

but more likely for me—or the infinity within me/us

that doesn’t toss, swell or shrink beyond

the vicissitudes of self, the words we tell ourselves.

~

Meditation

What is the word that means

an existence of looking

both inwardly—without judgment

or desire to derive absolute sense—

towards an unfolding profundity,

and outwardly from somewhere

beneath the surface of our bodies

at every word, gesture and

reciprocity passing for time, all

without feeling divided, absent,

sorrowful or benumbed?

(Meditation.)

~

Peninsula

We think about moving to Malaysia

when we have enough money

or when we run out of excuses.

Anywhere freer than Singapore.

Not freer, but across the causeway

we could disappear in that hinterland

that isn’t an island; that is vast enough.

We talk of leaving but never go.

Night inclines us to each other.

Two homosexuals in a possibly more

conservative country—the irony.

Or maybe not at all ironic, since

being invisible is what we’re used to

and now it could be an advantage.

Yes, the irony. No hope of changing

society; instead we pick a Malaccan

condo beside a hospital, as healthcare

is important in our old age. Imagine

that: we might die together

far from here, when our home here

shades into a dream we might finally

depart, before waking up together

inside a better dream. Our merging

bodies on the bed; peninsula

withstanding the sea.

~

Miho Kinnas – two poems

MAY 5th 2017

 

Seeing an Old Friend in Kyoto

Wind turns

The scent is

Andromeda

 

Two pebbles

expand

the white ocean

 

Thirty years

not wasted

Thirty years

~

Afternoon Yellow

To counterbalance

a kettle and a sponge

ex-lovers stand by

 

A story is

the notations

in the margin

 

Fill the glass

let water overflow

braid with light

 

Must practice

studying you

quickly

 

I examine

the relationships

by rotating my notebook

 

I coat the sky

yellow ocre, much white

and a touch of black

 

 

~

Shelly Bryant – six poems

APRIL 28th 2017

Kowtow

forehead

awaiting still the appearance

of a qiagban to mark my piety

my thoughts turn to you

– a beginning of my devotions

 

throat

breath sucked along the passage

blocked, the words that wish to fly

on a heavenward trajectory, me to you

– the suppression of mine for yours

 

heart

point from which all else flows

thought and speech mustering

as if for a final stand

before at last dropping to our knees

 

prostration

knees, palms, breast, face

all laid out on the earth

a single string vibrating

within the chthonic chord

~

 

Special Administrative District

names   changing

changing       hands

Khitan        Liao          Manchu

Rehe         Jehol

Japan

a buffer zone             shredded

absorbed by a neighborly trio

no trace left

on the maps we know

today

~

Not Your Business

it’s not your business, she said

when I commented on the pair

lounging nearby in the teahouse

 

then turned to the dragonfly

just settling in the flowerbed

with her lens, six inches long

~

 

Bonsai

tiny trees in robust bloom

azaleas’ varicolored blaze

 

yesterday

their prismatic symphony

had yet to sound

 

a short-lived song

silenced again

two days later

 

their voices

as I spoke of the hues

echoed in the setting sun

reflected in your eyes

~

a pine stands by the plum tree

at the pond’s edge

white blooms, a celebration of the snow

releasing its hold on the earth

laid over the prickly scene

of a more constant verdure

~

 

Fu Xi Temple

Brought here by fortune’s turn, hearing the whisper in ancient branches, I feel no regrets.

“How old is that cypress?”

“That one? It’s young. Four, maybe five hundred years. This one over here, though, it’s 1,300 years old. Give or take.”

 

engraved dragon

encircling a phoenix –

the twist of his blade

~

 

Horology

sundial

measured, moments

the movements of timepieces

on high; Earth’s flow

around her sun

 

hourglass

a running stream dammed

time, pooling at the neck

insisting on its trajectory

with each falling grain

 

clock

walking on its hands

we pace ourselves

its cadence prescribing

the flow of our days

 

timeline

life’s events marked

birth graduation marriage death

life’s days passed

in the spaces in between

~

Brandon Marlon  Shanghai Ghetto

APRIL 24th 2017

 

Destitute refugees craving a haven

discovered themselves foreigners in a foreign land

yet safe and spared, culture-shocked Semites

grateful for remoteness from genocidal Europe

even if desperate for food and housing

while old barracks with bunk beds

were hastily converted into group shelters called

home.

Addled by their alienage, they haunted

soup kitchens during prandial hours,

puzzling over characters, admiring

Huangpu River from the Bund, Cathay Hotel,

and Beaux Arts manses of a cosmopolitan

milieu disrupted on a day hateful and fateful

by invasive imperial Axis neighbors

who soon cordoned them off like cattle

into Hongkou district, a sector restricted,

reserved for the stateless.

An unlikely Judeo-Sino bond was forged there

where strangers and locals shared hardship, where

the chicken liver kreplach and the pork won ton

encountered their dumpling dopplegänger

in proximate tureens and bowls

steaming hot with comfort’s scents.

At war’s end, conquerors retreated and troubles

subsided, parting those who together

had borne woes, had endured mutual foes,

and earned the dignity due survivors.

In days to come, they would periodically

reflect on past trials and fearful years,

fondly recalling erstwhile ties ever

preserved in the amber of the moment.

~

 

Cyril Wong – three poems


APRIL 17th 2017

 

Fantasia

1

Dreaming of Kyoto in Osaka
and growing old in that town
where shrines would knock
tranquility into us at every turn
and a Buddha statue is composed
from ashes of the dead.
But food would hold no flavour
for your curried tongue; ryokans
have no proper chairs and the floor
is not for sleeping. A distant mountain
we’d never climb together
reminds me of our bodies
melded peacefully on a funeral pyre.

2

Living is
dying is loving
us for now.

3

When the mind moves faster
than light and so it freezes—
our marriage plays out in multiple
scenes on a distant screen;
forming, deforming, un-
forming. Until the return to where
we are now, like a rubber band
springing back to its original shape.
What am I left with that I’m left
to continue? What keeps me going
except for the slow hand of time
and the minutiae of love?

4

My mother told her children we must
never marry anyone outside our race,
never leave the church,
never become queer. I’ve never
been more Chinese, more holy, more
conventional than when I’m with you,
my lovely Indian man.
Your Hindu sacred thread moves
against my skin like a shifting line
in sand. When my wrist gets caught
in its loop, I know we’re conjoined and
already blessed.

~

 

The Terrorist

Not that it made a difference: humiliation
instead of triumph, Kafkaesque equivocation
of government officials, the press, social media—
not what we had in mind. Who knew that terrorists
would need courses in corporate messaging?
Tourists clutch their purchases against their chests,
whispering ISIS or Al-Qaeda under stalled breath
before crossing the street or re-entering trains
that pick up speed once the last body is cleared,
keeping to panicked schedules and bypassing history.
Debuting at Bangkok’s Min Buri court, my sallow face
oiled by camera flashes should have disappointed
many who thought (like me) the bomber in the photo
was handsome. This kind of work ages you,
I’d tell you. Running like a mad dog from Turkey
to Laos, Cambodia, then Thailand, praying over
forged passports, bomb-wires, bracing for the blast
such travail sucks the soul’s buoyancy from within…
But I can’t be sorry, it’s too late to be sorry—
“Uyghur” or “Uighur”, which is correct? Who knows
that I misspelled “Istanbul” in my passport?
What does sending these people back to China
have to do with us? they must ask. Grey Wolf, Grey
Wolves: shoppers at Siam Paragon must believe
it refers to the latest brand of underwear or shoes—
If this is the life I chose, then this is the life
I’ve chosen, I remind myself. With no more fight
left in me, I’m dragged lackadaisically between stations
like a drugged delinquent. From the police car,
I spot the Erawan Shrine again, one of the faces
of four-faced Brahma merely abraded; as if the deity
had deigned to permit a cursory show of vulnerability
before lustre is restored; with dancers prancing
around it to welcome, with intolerable grace, the passing
of tragedy, the immutability of change, a new day.

~

 

Vibrato

A birdcall I mistake for warm vibrato, a soprano warming up becoming the koel I recognise but shrink from recognising, because I want not to break the surface of sound with my discrimination of that sound; acknowledging instead that surface is singular, stretching from koel to these ears then my skull, travelling along the underside of skin to inspire goosebumps, the thrill of an alto trill beginning in my own throat; an unending surface of vibration, perhaps, that merges with the vibration of cells in my body, going deeper still—but what’s deeper than the wavering surface of everything? (Nothing.)

 

~

David Perry – four poems

 

APRIL 10th 2017

 

Sea Lyric

for and after Lisa Jarnot

I am a green FOTON dump truck heaped with delta soil
cut from the alluvial plain buoying up Shaanxi Nan Lu
on a Thursday evening buying Sichuan pepper peanuts
and two tall Super “Dry” Asahi silver cans. “KARAKUCHI.”
I am APAC and graying temples in Uniqlo Heattech™
raw cashews and roasted pumpkin seeds shrunk-wrapped
in celadon flex-Styrofoam beds with the smell of lice shampoo
in the makeshift bathroom of the makeshift half Deco house
made & shifted before the war and after, wafting in with flower
markets blooming round and all the people feeling capital
the traffic lights through warped French windows counting
down, a bird today, it’s possible, in a cage singing, talking,
joking with old men smoking, I am on the Metro headed
home from Shanghai’s transit well, the old railway station, I am
stuck in traffic near the mudflats by the river, I am yet
however still, tattooless, in fleece, and feeling newly brave

Previously published online and in print in The Brooklyn Rail

~

 

The Broken Pole

Age-old methods gull new angles, dropping air
under which we slip like ants in sand
bank lobby abstract at the back of the plane (Shanghai Air)
spit on the tarmac receding

And on the screen the waitress dishes
mash notes, the abstract’s defaced, hitchhikers
rip the car door off again and again, a maintenance man
flips sealant onto passersby and imperial power
is instantiated in orange glazed vessels
the potter’s daughter throws herself in the fire
fire burns in the engines
the engines pass us through air as we learn of the bell
the bellmaker’s daughter throws herself in the fire
the bell thereby successfully forged
father and son saved
daughter singing in the engines

~

Above the Waves

Late Cold War-era life preserver
Fresh tongue depressor, please
Black cracked leather band found digging cat’s grave
Tin tub dub reverb pebble down corrugated galvanized pipe
Generator motor oil pools in outdoor lathe shade
Bamboo scaffolding and waffled concrete walk
Imperative forms tomorrow, infinitive today
Cucumber light flat on our pants
Mistake to worry grammar
Ladder feet in hair tufts downwind from curbside barber chair

~

The Ape

It’s like this
but only for a second, rough
equivalence between said
and unsaid

She woke up with bits
of fuzz in her bangs

Now to walk is just enough
Flat screens, steam tables, particle board,
industrial glue, hexagonal pavers (rust
bone and celadon), pork belly futures
feline leukemia

The art we hope to post as notes.  Plaster
words in the mouth of the moment.

Why not jump in the ocean?  The answer

buzz fangs

2)

Everybody acts like A. fell out of the sky, walked
on water a while, fell back in, picked a wet smoke
from his shirt pocket, pulled out a dripping
Bic, flicked and lit, inhaled, exhaled a stream
of gold, violet, crimson and lemon petals
that settled on the sand under the waves, raising
new land, umber and sienna and ocher (a scene on silk).

And a character who comes and goes at will—
opens the book, closes it
and we appear, disappear

I say look, the ape is weak
virtually non-existent; it does not
exist independently of us, besides

3)

A journey of reclamation peaches
A whole note interpolated in a five-measure rest
The danger over
Always a hint of sewage
Green hatchery shirt, surplus binoculars
Burred purple and red lint
Hold hands and drop!

4)

Thicker points than thought
a whole new island of the lost
to be found without

Dangle of furs and pelts
roots uprooted and bodies
slung from guywire

5)

Night: tightrope, the peer
ball, an oily pool with green
interlinear highlighter notes scrawled

lines opening like an off
zipper with threads in its teeth

~

“Above the Waves”, “The Broken Pole”, and “The Ape” were previously published in Sal Mimeo.