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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 17-19

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Three Poems

Chen Kehua


once we moved in an age of ideas and signs
debate's lexicon gouging at truth
we then entered a world of instruments and logic
trudging through wastes beyond hypotheses and equations
before soaring into a universe of introspection and dream
unfocussed consciousness like the 3000 layers of an onion of
these days, we walk in an age of replication and chatter
this limited life forging away specially for the sake of futility
new dilemmas hatch from outdated language
as fertile as ant nests
"love is universal but we are universally unable to love"
light goes in straight lines but it also curves
time is delusion, space illusion
no birth no death no filth no purity no increase no decline
must we go on walking whereverwards or will
wherever come walking towards us next? [End Page 17]


waking from a world of nothingness
it could be that I don't even know
that I'm already dead
squirming maggots inside my body twist to form a double-helix
endowing it with the will of atoms
and consuming the memory of a lifetime
and so I commence the next phase of evolution
just as I once walked amongst the vast ranks of the living
I now     walk with the
and yet apparently familiar ranks of the dead
to continue a journey that goes beyond knowledge
you cannot treat me with the knowledge of living alone
because you know nothing at all     about nothingness
indeed, nothingness is lighter than shadow
harder than concepts     stranger than light
simpler than death     or life
but there in the ranks I sense your shining non-existence
regret at your absence becomes a baffling summons
which finally allows me to brush past
nothingness     and amidst all the upset
to incarnate once more the infant of desire... (1997) [End Page 18]


me, I borrowed his body
and that segment of the flow of time
my coming into this world was like a surrealist painting
and from that moment—awesome—there was grief/joy
desire, and ambition—these I understand
although I'm only borrowing
but suddenly I clean forgot the full story
including the fact that I too was originally once a universe
and because of this, I have
elaborated games
with that being and the whole of this egg-shaped life
turning day and night into one another's dreamworlds
when I wake in another dream
I find that I've
unwittingly inscribed a poem
entitled "I"



Translations by Simon Patton

Chen Kehua was born in Hualian, on the east coast of Taiwan, in 1961. A trained ophthalmologist, he is also a prolific writer of fiction, essays, plays, film criticism, and song lyrics. He is the author of many books of poetry, the most recent of which is I Picked Up a Skull (2002).

Simon Patton was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1961. He works as a literary translator and coedits the China poetry domain of the Poetry International Web ( with the mainland Chinese poet Yu Jian. He was an artist in residence at the Taipei International Artists Village in Taiwan.



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