the muse apprentice guild
--the new canon of the 21st century




SIX WORKS
BY TINA CHANG

________________

 


Damage

 

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.


________________

 

 

Kneeling

 

††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††

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.


 

________________

 

 

Entrance

 

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.


________________

 

 

Vanity

 

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.

 

Summerís gone and with it, all that leafy fuel,

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.
________________

 

 

The Burning

 

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 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.

 

 

 

________________

m.a.g.