Marilyn Chin reads six poems from her latest collection, Hard Love Province, published in June by Norton.
Alba: Moon Camellia Lover
for Don Lonewolf
Last night through the camellia boles
I gazed, transfixed, at the moon—
I know that she is my mother
Staring back from death, a dark matter.
For hours, we were one
With the earth’s static blindness.
She did not envy the living
And I did not mourn the dead.
Tenderly, she lit up my face,
The camellia tree and my lover.
He, asleep on his side, cradling
His own soft sacks.
A few geese
Leave their noisy billows.
Home is a home away from home.
A neighbor’s unfixed cat
Courting her own disaster.
A windless branch casts a hard silhouette
Certain of another tomorrow.
Suddenly, I witness the ecstasy of the changing hour—
As the sun devours the moon’s corona
And the camellia unfurls
In brilliant pinks and reds, and my new love,
With a sweet smile on his sour lips
Struggles toward the bathroom.
His flanks are glistening pearls.
O my mother,
Let the sunlight erase your final torso.
Let the milk of all suffering
Fade into the traffic’s clean hum.
Let father’s white suit of sin
Blanch into my lover’s swooning moans
And all be forgiven.
Let my happiness blister and counter-glow
Against your magnificent sick light.
Brown Girl Manifesto (Too)
Metaphor metaphor my pestilential aesthetic
A tsunami powers through my mother’s ruins
Delta delta moist loins of the republic
Succumb to the low-lying succubus do!
Flagpole flagpole my father’s polemics
A bouquet of fuck-u-bastard flowers
Fist me embrace me with your phantom limbs
Slay me with your slumlord panegyrics
Flip over so I can see your pastoral mounts
Your sword slightly parting from the scabbard
Girl skulls piled like fresh baked loaves
A foul wind scours my mother’s cadaver
Ornamental Oriental techno impresarios
I am your parlor rug your chamber bauble
Love me stone me I am all yours
Pound Pound my father’s Ezra
Freedom freedom flageolet-tooting girls
Dancing on the roof of the maquiladoras
for Don (1958–2011)
My skiff is made of spicewood my oars are Cassia bract
Music flows from bow to starboard
Early Mozart cool side of Coltrane and miles and miles
Cheap Californian Merlot and my new boyfriend
Bullet don’t shoot him he’s my draft-horse
Night scope don’t pierce him he’s my love-stalk
Sniper who are you high on the roof
Stop for a slow cigarette let him escape
If I could master the nine doors of my body
And close my heart to the cries of suffering
Perhaps I could love you like no other
Float my mind toward the other side of hate
The shantytowns of Tijuana sing for you
The slums of Little Sudan hold evening prayer
One dead brown boy is a tragedy
Ten thousand is a statistic
So let’s fuck my love until the dogs pass
All beautiful boyfriends are transitory
They have no souls they’re shiny brown flesh
Tomorrow they’ll turn into purple festering corpses
Fissured gored by myriad flies
Down the Irrawaddy River you lay yourself to sleep
No sun no moon no coming no going
No causality no personality
No hunger no thirst
Skyward beyond Angkor Wat
Beyond Jokhang Lhasa
You were floating on a giant stupa
Waiting for Our Lord
Malarial deltas typhoidal cays
Tsunamis don’t judge calamity grieves no one
The poor will be submerged the rich won’t be saved
Purge the innocent sink the depraved
You push down my hand with your bony hand
The fox-hair brush lifts and bends
There’s no revision in this life you sigh
One bad stroke and all is gone
What do I smell but the perfume of transience
Crushed calyxes rotting phloems
Let’s write pretty poems pretty poems pretty poems
Mask stale pogroms with a sweet whiff of oblivion
One Child Has Brown Eyes
One child has brown eyes, one has blue
One slanted, another rounded
One so nearsighted he squints internal
One had her extra epicanthic folds removed
One downcast, one couldn’t be bothered
One roams the heavens for a perfect answer
One transfixed like a dead doe, a convex mirror
One shines double-edged like a poisoned dagger
Understand their vision, understand their blindness
Understand their vacuity, understand their mirth
If a black man could be president
Could a white man be his slave?
Could a sinner enter heaven
By uttering his name?
If the terminator is my governor
Could a cowboy be my king?
When shall the cavalry enter Deadwood
And save my prince?
An exo-cannibal eats her enemies
An indo-cannibal eats her friends
I’d rather starve myself silly
Than to make amends
Blood on the altar Blood on the lamb
Blood in the chalice
Not symbolic but fresh
Twenty Five Haiku
A hundred red fire ants scouring, scouring the white peony
Fallen plum blossoms return to the branch, you sleep, then harden again
Cuttlefish in my palm stiffens with rigor mortis, boy toys can’t love
Neighbor’s barn: grass mat, crickets, Blue Boy, trowel handle, dress soaked in mud
Iron-headed mace, double-studded halberd slice into emptiness
O fierce Oghuz, tie me to two wild elephants, tear me in half
O my swarthy herder, two-humped bactrian, drive me the long distance
Forceps, tongs, bushi, whip, flanks, scabbard, stirrup, goads, distaff, wither, awl
Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, bounty of cyclamen, mown paths erupt
Gaze at the charred hills, the woebegone kiosks, we are all God’s hussies
I have not fondled the emperor’s lapdog, whose name is Black Muzzle
Urge your horses into the mist-swilled Galilee, O sweet Bedlamite
Her Majesty’s randying up the jewel stairs to find the pleasure dome
Ancient pond: the frog jumps in and in and in, the deep slap of water
The frog jumps into the ancient pond: she says, no, I am not ready
Coyote cooked his dead wife’s vagina and fed it to his new wife
I plucked out three white pubic hairs and they turned into flying monkeys
Let’s do it on the antimacassar, on the antimacassar
Little Red drew her teeny pistol from her basket and said “eat me”
Chimera: Madame Pol Pot grafting a date tree onto a date tree
His unworthy appendage, his mutinous henchman grazed my pink cheeks
He on top now changes to bottom, Goddess welcomes her devotee
Fish fish fowl fowl, mock me Mistress Bean Curd, I am both duck and essence
Sing sing little yellow blight rage rage against the dying of the light
Don’t touch him, bitch, we’re engaged; and besides, he’s wearing my nipple ring
Reprinted from Hard Love Province: Poems by Marilyn Chin. Copyright © 2014 by Marilyn Chin. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.