BY TINA CHANG
1. Thank the darkened hills,
2. the ashen lover,
3. your tiny hooded orphan falling in his sleep.
4. You are a paper boat melting into the waterís interior.†††
5. Enter the world scrubbed, without your usual blood, blush.
6. Be hopeful with a change of geography, bread cut differently.†
7. Turn to note the brutal color of your unpainted mouth.†
8. Paint by number.
This is you:
The season in pieces:
mirror, clock, stove
then the doors of your heart reluctantly swing ajar
There you are, looking toward your lawn, as if youth
was there, lost in the green.†
You canít wait for midnight, when the minutes dwarf
into a single black pill, lantern light an antiseptic against your will.
Your little boy wets his sheets but his body is pure
Where have you come from? †††††††††††††††9. pages and pages
††††††††††† ††††††††††† find yourself between wild cactus, thornbush
By morning you feel greedy as the sun climbs
unannounced through the windows.
Strip down to nothing and stand in daylight,
your body at odds with the sun.
Move onward to the corner convenience store, a miniature
doorway cut to fit your outline
10. an obvious entrance, exit.
A Fall day and you are finally out,
pressed and perfumed.
A woman on a bench is watching a small town parade.
Teenagers in red and white marching, playing
that awkward brass melody.
11. Timbre: one note struggling to reach the next.
Then the minutes following the musicís departure.
12. The lingering, the diminishing.†
The woman on the bench now weeping. The more you look at her,
the more you know the woman is you. She is out.
13. Her tender throat noosed with silver.
As she walks down the basement steps
to see what it was she was entering, her heart pleads,
tell me a story. The body leans as if to listen.
Children run along the pavement in the last weeks
of summer. The body is a puzzle and memory,
the pieces that lock together, without logic, without magic.
The father takes a handful of rice grains and scatters
them onto the basement floor. The girl is asked to kneel.
The grains press into her knees which begins
a small punishment. Her thin frame is made thinner
by shadows when the door closes and she is left in darkness.
She hears her brothers upstairs in their rooms, laughing
in their bright windows. She hears children outside
tapping a drumbeat with their frantic running.
It is the story of girl kneeling in the darkness.
And if we ask her to tell it, she will tell it differently.
She would say the body is not a puzzle but an anchor
cast into an ocean. She would say that she was not afraid
but weary and bowed her head letting darkness
surround her like a wilderness. The rice breaks open
like tiny flowers, blooming into blisters.
For hours, the body surrounded by darkness
becomes the darkness, and there a chasm grows,
deeper and wider, separating until she cleaved
into twin girls: the one who breathed inside
that small space and the one who grew
a secret language. Nothing like praying
but something hard won, like balancing
on a thin wall, uncertain which way gravity
would bring her, memory teetering on a question mark.
The door opens with a light that makes her eyes
tighten. She rises from her place. She is flying.
She tears at her arms until she alights.
The day my father died, I began to love
many men and I knew there would be no end.
Allow me room to breathe, my father asked
wishing that I let go of his wrists.
The man, now, in my bed rolls over and begins
to snore. The white of the walls are more white
than when I painted them. In my room I write
to believe you are living.
Itís 4:00 a.m. and no oneís awake.
I go to sleep and in a dream,
I am someone saying, Do you know
the smallest, most lovely canary can sing
†the most deadly songs at night?
I can hear it loudly, tapping
outside my locked window.
Someone has hung up a painting.
Someone has provided a palette
that is come-hither blue, sunflower yellow,
warm-your-belly green peas.
A bell rings through the rain.
I wish to tell the world Iím sick to death of it.
The heart that does not wish anymore,
does not want. But it is the perception of you
that makes me mismatch my words.
Waiting for you: nests fitted into wooden trees,
my hair thrashes past me.
Spilling awake, the sound
of rain on the large sea expands.
Iím afraid one of these days,
Iíll say everything I ever wanted to say.
In my favorite corner of the world you are there, you believe me.
Love pauses by the door with a set of keys jingling.
A wasp crawls over the shadow of two people.
The woman pins, repins her hair. The wet tendrils a dark arrow
pointing to her lower spine. Yellow flowers fall
when a man slips his hands over her stomach. She parts
a little, paints her mouth, a wild bird in the doorway.
She puckers her lips, two hushed waves.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† *
Mandarin oranges, halved and sitting by the window.
She demands. Her dress blooming as she turns.
He gives her a drawing, a blue sheet of paper
sewn with invisible stitch. He has attached birds
to everything. She ignores him and eats the orange,
juices dripping down her arm. She looks at the drawing
and knows that love exists in her tundra, her arctic
swelling.† His kind of love: windblown, impoverished.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† *
In front of her, a paper boat melts into the waterís
interior. She sees the season, now, in pieces. A hand
against the sky as if about to touch its distance.
Grass giving way to more grass. Sheís lost in the green,
she hears a parade made of one symbol, a childís drum,
and one womanís trembling song, a lost octave only she
can hear. She runs to the balcony but no one comes.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† *
She looks at her face on the back of a spoon, fixes
her eye on the eye that looks back, touches the silver
as if disrupting the surface of water. She puts the spoon
down, her body moving now toward the person waiting
for her. She lowers the strap of her dress. Pigeons dive,
making a collective shadow inside her.
The Dark Workshops of the Soul and Billions, Gently Do So Willingly
Lately, thereís been this unsettling feeling rising in you
like bread in the oven baking, crushing the hearts of eggs
with a wooden spoon. Sugar everywhere.
It wouldnít have been so bad if you stopped for a moment
to listen, you would have heard a hairline
crack in the glass, would have heard a whisper of cold
coming in like a beckoning, a belief beyond you.
Perhaps you have to practice your evil
with silence. Hear the applause inside.
For the one lone pianist, and the houses that remain
standing. Know that music in the background
is more important than you.
Sometimes you are a force that has no partner,
a heliotrope, an asterisk in graffiti that stops you
when youíre walking.
What better place than to start from the fold?
The plush velvet, satin, silk. Saintly nudes
and goddesses with erotic purpose
like an orchestra whose function
is to draw attention to the soloist.
Wear the ghost, an absent dress
whose own yellow garment leaps away in fear.
Amazing to open these doors, wide
to the world of shorn mazes,
waves of green, mown, to your own fever.
Grass and everything after it.
All before you, you could take it in
by breathing in, just by being born, it could
Be just the way it was, when you were a girl
in your silks and velvet pleasure.
all thatís left to waste. You wander past the periphery
that moans blue and breaks past your house
where you fill the pond until it falls into a wound.
You feed the pigs with a gentle hand, touch them,
those sterling beasts that resist your mercy.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ďÖIíve lived without namesÖĒ
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† -Stephen Kuusisto
Off a seashore in Russia I run, laughing
at the mystery of movement in the form
of water, laughing at my father with sand
on his face who will one day die.
Or imagine for a minute a locomotive
full of people, rocking with the motion
of a vintage sorrow, head bowing as if
time has beaten them. In my winter season
I think of monks in Penang who sit without
sound for weeks. How they live inside silence.
The silence is alive. The ringing of a bell
is an intricate acorn; my soul hits the ground
when it falls. The apple for all its perfection
will never change. The seed I swallow fashions
a knot in my throat, the fiber of the peel winds
like a staircase leading me down. I look
at my teeth-marks in fruit, in flesh
like a message, an erotic code deciphered
by tearing and biting down. I want to keep
this braille, this transcript of my soul:
My body is a vessel of wanting.
My body is a vessel of fury.
My body is a vessel of apology.
I am the thread & the damage the thread made after the mending.
I am the god I donít know & the fire that burns with no fuel.