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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 154-157



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Four Poems

Chen Li


In the Out-Of-The-Way Corners of Our Lives

so many poems inhabit the out-of-the-way corners of our lives they've probably never applied to the Census Administration
      Office for a residence permit
or obtained a door plate from a district administration office or a
      police station
as you come walking out of the alleyway, you bump into a jogger
      speaking on his cell phone
his awkward smile reminds you of the old doctor who helps his
      pretty young
wife polish her red sports car in the driveway each night:
actually,
these are two stanzas of a much longer poem
tact but no contact between one thing and another
some float to the surface and become images, courting
other images. sounds and scents are usually the first to seduce,
      secretly
exchanging information. colors are bashful young girls, they have
      to stay at home
arranging the curtains bedspreads bathrobes tablecloths waiting for
      their lord and master to come back and switch on
the light. a poem, like a home, is a honeysweet burden
where love desire pain sadness are housed, sameness and difference
      accommodated
they don't need to go off to the clinic to have their tubes tied or buy
      condoms
even though they have a morality and a family planning all of their
      own
socio-economic compatibility doesn't necessarily make for the best
      matches
and while it's true milk can be mixed with water, fire and water can
      be mated too [End Page 154]
Whitehead eats blackbird, a black-headed fly argues
      philosophically that
a white horse be no horse at all. tender violation
a deafening silence
forbidden love is the special prerogative of poetry
some of them choose to live in the shadow
      of metaphors or in forests of symbols
some are cheerful and optimistic, climbing
      everywhere like spiders of
sunshine. others prefer to eat the wind and
      drink the dew, talk pure talk and have
illicit sex, others resemble invisible gauze
scattered in your brain subdivided into so
      many suites of rooms for rent,
      occasionally
starting up the looms of dream and
      unconsciousness
so many poems apparently imprisoned in
      rooms of habitual action. you shut
      your door
looking for words, rifling through boxes
      and cupboards, imploring, you even
      ride inspiration's electric donkey
driving the mouse, pressing down keys
      and conducting searches. open a
      window
the big wide world, that's where you find
      them:
irises after rain. a flock of seagulls
on its way home from school. an oblique
      patterning
of ripples in the sea
a pot of tomatoes with a few squares of
      beancurd cooking in the microwave
you remember you still need some peas. as you walk into the
      supermarket you see
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
you reach out and take down a can only to find that this tin you've
      wracked
your brains over, that you spent so much effort tracking down,
      owes its [End Page 155]
whole existence to an absence:
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN TIN CAN
a solitary persimmon on the counter. you say
How splendid! a solitary persimmon on the counter
now there's a line with a style all of its own
you can't help suspecting it's an immigrant from Japan or the T'ang
      dynasty, renowned for its quatrains
but you don't mind at all. don't mind at all that they all fit inside
one small shopping bag

Kubla...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 154-157
Launched on MUSE
2003-05-19
Open Access
No
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