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KOON WOON - Page 3
|In the onslaught of the inadvertent machinery...||#1105, now a year later...||I Want you to write secretly...|
|Sometimes when I leave behind the places I've been...||Asleep on the floor...||It's no longer night|
|Forum||The Solitudes...||Focus on the river...
|Missingness...||Untitled||You will relax into this poem as you'd be pleased to expect nothing|
|Sometimes you just have to stop talking...||As the night is beginning to focus...
||The Relish in the mundane...|
|If there's a choice...||In a Chinese Restaurant
||The Usher's Tie|
|My Room Squats Modestly||Under the Oak
To Page 4. Page 1 . Page 2
And pound for pound you cannot outfight a Mongol
who sucks the blood of his horse when the grass is sparse...
and a man's room is not for a woman, while a house or home is,
but where and when shall such good fortune come,
as it is unjustly in favor of those who play along and violate the rules,
and that's why the gods punish Sisyphus...
And now there is harmony as forces bang against each meter a few words,
that it is better to do that than to matter a curse...
It is going now, the long going, and how can we go?
Go where you can live forever, though you have only the absolute minimum...
That's simplicity, that's mathematical elegance,
and with it, your empire will live forever, for you have constructed
a house that cannot be seen
and a "horse that eats no grass, and is swift and obedient,"
and the writer goes out for a walk hungry, but for now
"Swallows clouds" and feels light-headed as he pulls the cold iron
of the mailbox and drops this note,
which he hopes will save another bamboo slit by Li Po,
as the rapid water drowns in a swift, downward water,
out to the Yellow Sea...
#1105, now a year later...
Whatever the language, theft seeps into the public domain,
and I write to you of the rain now falling on the kingdom;
that it falls equally on palaces and vacant lots,
on doorknobs of silver and doorknobs of copper...
And the longer the civilization, the longer its corruption
of ancient texts, of the binges on tombs, and while today a lamb
hangs in the butcher's window, tomorrow
it might very well be a dog...
And with this long view of things, I can see beyond the hills
surrounding this part of Seattle that used to be mudflats...
and now an industry of mindlessness is built on violence
in this neighborhood where the police are not helpful...
That's why it rains...
In China, we say, "When it rains, Heaven is answering..."
And Heaven is straight up, but laden with treasures,
you will go straight down!
I Want you to write secretly..
I want you to write secretly of secret things,
this I can help you with, the dense sorrows
of the nests of bees, the myriads of ants,
and secretly placing these sorrows
in hearts yet uncorrupted, this I can help...
And write of the lilies on the scum,
the prostitutes in pre-dawn Chinatown,
and the solitary walk of the Canton policeman
through alleys so that the truth is not denied him
from the garbage after a torrid night...
And I want you to read of a mama's concern
from the face of a child,
the intoxication from a broken cup,
and of the great slaughter from three drops
of blood on the butcher's sawdust floor.
Got eyes? The truth comes in like unpaid bills;
Got ears? The lies will be loudly prefaced as truths.
But see what you see, hear from the wall of noise,
as long as you guard your senses,
news comes in as the tingling of bells...
Sometimes when I leave behind the places I've been...
Sometimes when I leave behind the places I've been,
a series of cheap hotels, an empty bed smelling of cheap cologne,
the darkest of my first uncle's real estates,
a hot-plated hotel room, up many rickety stairs,
with mice under the washbasin and prostitutes out in the hall,
with photos of a family in Peru and a tongue
unable to distinguish "I's" and "r's,"
finding citizenship a mile away from this den of poverty,
where a thousand Chinese bachelors,
tired of the Chinese newspaper,
loiter in Plymouth Square
or hide in clubs to bang mahjong tiles...
When I leave behind, in roach-scattered tenements,
these separate realities which bounce off my thoughts,
like playing ping-pong alone with the table pushed against the wall,
and now I am given a high-rise apartment in Seattle,
overlooking the water so deep and blue,
my thoughts aren't all that expectant,
just a feeling of validation,
as the tea stain verifies a cup of tea,
and lightly now the traffic down below,
and the muted growth,
nevertheless, like the volume of the world,
filters in, flies in...
Asleep on the floor...
The warm oblivion,
the answer to a night of delirious medication
on the eleventh floor,
the car prowl alarm
like the high-school alarms I slept through
until the train roared through the dew of blackberry vines,
across the dirt field from the old house,
now twenty[some years in memory
staring at a sheet of yellow paper.
The air is warm and thick,
lays me down like anesthesia, and waking, thick-brained,
unsure and careless of reality,
of a banana cut in half, or of strawberries missing
from the milky sugared cereal,
and bird wings,
the cord of the shade swaying in the breeze,
subtle, the frame of the window holds still...
The toes curled a beat, a pulse,
and languid the day, fully matured and living easy,
the promise half-fulfilled and half-empty
and living is a guess,
and the wonderment why, why is this this and those aren't those
and how now to rephrase your thesis
for the rest of the composition of the afternoon...
And lazily I stare, the ceiling is aware
of my eyes it reflects in some philosophical way,
as I came back from the wood mill some twenty years ago
and slept with a cigarette,
with the sawdust still in my lungs,
and the train rumbles across the dirt fields,
shaking the metal furnace frame, unheated and unneeded in the summer,
but now, in the winter, I pay dearly for the warmth
of an apartment, though it is still several months away,
so far away in this warm oblivion,
the air so thick it holds the ripe blackberries up
in front of my eyes
across the dirt fields, so clearly
that twenty winks bring back twenty years,
and yes, it was summet, and living was dizzy...
It's no longer night
The dawn will further split the sky,
a muffled jet
and the train roars through the empty morning
and the cinders of cities
electrify and insectify my room
industriously looking at Seattle
with my mind getting lighter
with a rim
of cranes at the harbor
of the Pacific...
Consensual reality returns
and I split this typewritten page
dividing it into light and dark
for the Tao to enter
only to disappear
among the gulls of the morning...
O.K., I am going to take a forum now:
The oncoming future is vast!
From sweatshop shyness to unfettered Beat poetry,
From the crashing waves of the Pacific coast to a thimble of wine,
From the furniture factory to a seat at the University,
From the newspapers the homeless man is cradling to a medical prescription,
The forum for the future is vast...
More than glacier ice, more than Indonesian rice,
More than a cold night in the woods,
Things are coming out now,
And rain is beginning to fall
On princess and pauper alike,
And contradictions tightly interlock...
I am going to take this forum,
A dandelion in the inner city,
A letter from the other side of the world,
A microchip and garlic dip,
A signal from a heretofore presumed dead planet,
Over the dead silences of teh vastness of time and space,
Intelligence is coming,
We stop the moment and seize the orange in the sky
And take this forum:
The oncoming future so vast!
"One-heart" is a purple-glazed flag flapping and where did the train leave me? Lately, now, my friend, I feel the ice, and ice-cracking in the extremities of fingertips that hit these typewriter keys and leave my thoughts... I have been among you, my friends, for 35 years -- in snow, in fog, in rain, in sleet, As if the mail must get through... and I remember you as the sweet viola strings from my native land... But I had my solitudes my slow hours in dingy cafés in cypress groves, in stream beds And now the cold pristine currents flow in my cranium and my warm flesh swells to the music And pound for pound There's more of me now!
Focus on the river, the fisherman seems to continually move upstream... Focus on man, history seems to forever move downstream... Therefore, the Tao, the Tao says the boat moves because the river moves, the fish moves in a moving river, but I am still because the banks are still... Focus on the woman and she'll blush and swell in happiness; Focus on the ox and he is a black dot on the rice fields, Focus on the dot and you enter the Tao, The immutable within the mutables, and therefore, a man focuses slightly above his nose And what he knows is knowledge, Knowledge of the river, And of the fish, the smallest of all fish...
To be missing is devoid of coffee is cold and a cigarette butt from the discussion of last night and the underheated old house I wasn't there but an unfolded piece of paper spells your identity as you cross the border from one half of the room to the other half caring less for social convention than before and do not say any familiar phrase be as off-beat as possible and write out your anxiety on notepads... the why's of tomorrow stale in one day time that is is all there is and the inner-city rhythms give way to dampness under armpits that you how you wish it were the crotch instead but you could do without it This is the minimal man the missing man; man alone in cold rooms where a phone is on the floor And you write your anxieties out And wonder about reality And the imagined growth Of your hair of the city parks of high rises with a bowl of chop suey or a piece of cold pizza The surface is simple enough you do not know reality but the pretense is that you do and perhaps you don't but feel it like straddling the cracks of an earthquake...
Perhaps it is not needed to look beyond coffee as coffee As something bitter something awakening you to bitterness But first coffee as coffee the dark liquid, a dark flavor, a bit on the whole unpleasant. Something you have grown used to, of high mountains, the Andes, the vultures, the pitiless sun... Anchor yourself against its dark, brooding color, yet its sway is sharp and refreshing Coffee as coffee color as color life as life pain as pain These pains This disconnectedness where lies my precariousness? Where is the match that would sparkle the entire terrain? And these pains, petty in scope, illusioned against a big landscape... As needles enter the fabric the weaving of your life, these pains, the experiences of life enter the etcetera of your skin and come in Into your cosmology illusioned against the sky And the only necessary reply is "I was not well..." As deep as the Pearl I slept, for 36 years, and six assassins in six tries, from my native city Canton. Will get anyone, as my mathematics say, and when my philosophy professor asks me about the Tao, I can only say, "Sir, it overall returns to the main." As the veins and arteries form a network, and all the capillaries engorge with breath and blood, and life stamps and steams like a horse outside the ale house and is gone with the lighting of the lamps...
You will be pleased to expect a new layer of skin as I face friends and foes alike in the double-crosses of crooked roads in the ordinary travels in a day taking you to the feeble thoughts of daily consciousness and so let your toes go dead let the ankles go limp let the calves sleep and paralyze thighs and hips you do not need all this heavy machinery now for you want to relax into poem, into sleep... The day has been extraordinary hard for danger was carried by each car on the street and every tenth mind is lethal and you might meet it anywhere... waiting for the bus at a deserted street or at a counter that serves chimney soot and square faces and rough hands objectify you but never mind, relax your abdomen, exhale exhale the stagnant air of cities and dream of stars with the heart and keep your neck above water...let your head ascend, be lighter, lighter than the cares of charity, be lighter and travel farther, and float, float away... So, now as you enter this poem, and finding a drinking fountain that leads through water To the Master of Water, the keeper of archives, turn your stero down, turn down the volume of anxiety, like two pips of an apple and tune in, turn on, and drop out... When you wake, it will be fine, but it's been thirty years... Never mind! Give it all up, take your $5 bills and take your pennies and start anew...start by relaxing into this poem...
The failure is not a river you've fished where ripe mulberries have dropped... And the silk we've spun in our village is enviable on damsels of the city... Now, you know what poetry essentially is: it is the communication of pain And the most monstrous construction is yet to begin And how like the electrons bumping electrons in a strand of copper wire that the cars on the freeway to the left of my 11th floor highrise window below the hit of hills and above the grumbling of warehouses in the demise and you always lose money trying to keep the truth within bounds and as the two-sectioned bus makes a wide turn forty private cars follow High towers flash in the distance and a bridge ascends like an on-ramp into infinity going to West Seattle where a politics of indifference resides and the light industrial haze rises, rises but vision can still penetrate several miles
As the night begins to focus outside my window the cranes of the day lowering in the sky and the train of cars on rail and on the freeways taper as smoke from factories call it a day... And the high flying flag is now limp as if the nation itself will soon close down And the buses are lack a dai sical now for some late commuters And the streams of cars are of consciousness now forgetting And I smell how the roast in the oven is darker by degreees and will be fit for serving when I am done typing but why do I type at this hour when I should be watching the tv news like someone watchng a pair of socks hung to dry the grime in the sink can sit overnight again and these cars a straight line of them going presumably home And home is where I am saving the steps rolled out from the rug to the market And the electric tram sails a blur of engines And the wars going elsewhere will be in the darkest part of Africa today as the night begins to focus And someone buys a fat diamond because they are marrying And so the darkest troubles are forever...
The red rays at the end of the day shine like fire on the white plum blossoms, and in the mundane, the air is dirtier, the sunsets are more bloody, and life is unfair to you, my schoolgirl... But genius has its use someday! I woke with my heart fluttering because in my dream I've run up a long stairway to you, my heart beating wildly, and now it is morning and I sit alone, Coffee is not coffee, typewriting is not typewriting but the Poe surcease of sorrows hidden in the words that have flown... And in Russia, the men dash their glasses and cry "Bitter! Bitter!" at weddings, and here the smoke rises from industrial chimneys, and at once the city sector is illumined by an early sunrise, the precocious genius of the day, and the unbearable optimism begins again and all the rampant turbulence of heart The rush of a lily toward the unfolding of a family tapestry toward the expansion of light light as light the recompense of a night without fire...
If there's a choice between reading about reality or seeing it touch a thought as braille the volume of the world funnels in through a gap in the window, the old factories in the industrial distance, the salt of the bay air, if there's a choice, I'd meditate on plum blossoms; no, I wouldn't view flowers on horseback, nor would I eavesdrop on the crescendo of song and dance behind the imperial door... If there's a choice, I'd choose to be poor, unnoticed, unrewarded, unfettered by robes of language, social mores, no, if there was a choice, I'd not obey the rules of pickpockets or dog-meat vendors, paperback writers, insurance salesmen, tavern bouncers, I'd just amble, stare at the cracks of sidewalks, and envision a danelion shooting through, yellow and fine, or I will imagine a blackberry vine in the inner city, growing o.k. without city rain, Heaven's pennies it abstains from taking... If I have some choice, I will have a morsel of rice and some tea, hot or with ice, and from beggar to king, if the choice was really mine, I'd simply choose to be kind...
You are unhinging my bachelor door with your naughty-woman smile. My requirements are simple, the #3 dinner, with your smile across the room, under the armpit of the waitress. Your husband holds up the newspaper wall over unfinished plum duck. You don't read the financial page but you are glad he is deft with it. The sweet-and-sour port is tart with vinegar the Chinese say is envy. When the cooks go home their wives will rub cool loins against tired muscles. The ponytailed waitress is betrothed to a young butcher who knows what flanks are and every other cut of meat. It should be obvious to you when I finish my bitter-melon soup I'll go home today and desperately trace a sickle, the shape of your smile, and using it, I will cut my bundle of wheat.
Our unpleasantness seated on the warm colors of the sofas. Important and appropriate the usher had a tie. You remember the Evergreen black berries we pick for mama's jam, Hank, On the side of the railroad track? Some were so ripe they didn't wait for us. Hank was thinking three kings don't beat a flush. Two brothers held up mama's column of grief. The rites later will be one in Christian and one in Chinese, to burn A hell of a lot of Hell Bank Notes, a choice of heavens. And a stone three times the size of his grandfather's. When the rain stops in Spring when the cemetery will be firm. The same one as Bruce Lee. Here on I can only talk to his ghost. The same story: railroad, restaurant and laundry Immigrants who thought of returning but never did. There is so much beef and duck fat. He stood for half of his life in front of a wok While Sonny Listen lasted three rounds with who was Cassius Clay then On the kitchen radio. He is not thinking of chop suey But his jooksing children another invention of America. He cast his vote - almost for a democrat. And in his village in China, the red, ripe berries Would fall. And one did yesterday.
Not a father and no longer a son, Soon I will enter my room at 40, Having to accept who sits At its only chair as a friend. Living in a room, meant for an overnight guest, Where time leaks through the faucet, my pounding On the typewriter proclaims As well as the solitary insect rattling Its antennas on the dresser. Kafka might have managed the hotel once or twice. Late at night, the wind rolls Empty beer cans on the roof top below, like Tibetan prayer-wheels. Before oatmeal, the metronome In the grooves of my brain swings from hope to despair. I rise and serve my room's prisoner Coffee and mete him a sentence life has given me. And he is in, casts the I-Ching And indulges nonsense like a buffoon. That's how it is For us who live in hotels, he says to me, And the hotel keeps the registers For only so long. But there is one window, And you can look out of it, Like the eye of Cyclops on the world.
For the woman with her diary frozen in the freezer like a Swiss account, a gorged, brutal breath driven to shadows under the oak because of a cautious porch light, is a man breaking into children pretzels. It is beside the point she's somnambular, like a green woman from a green ballustrade, like a stiffly moving pigeon, tripping out at 3 A.M., flirting, as: Under a bridge of man's hard concrete and steel: A sudden glint of chrome, A Kamakazie plane ripping a ship, The scent of sacrifice, The enlarged breath of violence. She had said: If you take, I will respond like a mummy with Pharoahs' curses. The Sixties are flowers trampled. And what could you take that hasn't the odor of a 3-day-old fish? She unlocks the door to the house of her bodices. She unlocks the freezer. Her diary, gaps where she withdrew from life, feeling unsafe, like a flower before wanton hands. Only in the sanctuary of her very own bed room, does she feel safe from uncontrolled appetites.
Groaned muscles, staccato human clocks working around the clock, twelve minutes past human endurance, ("Never lift an injured person by the armpits.") A child's dragon keep guard on a sack of rice leaking because of some rodent or other. An immigrant may locate himself historically, like a lizard in Escher's etching, puffing steam for awhile before expiration and sinking into amorphous chaos, like Sissyphus rolling a boulder up the hill to the garish, neon signs of the gods indicating a good place to eat, like winoes sleeping in urine, while the mentally ill sing slum, slum, slum. Yet a man may be grateful for the caring visits of fire and building inspectors in their crisp uniforms. Where else can a woman discard her secret wishes for a man as easily as here? The children can dream of a parking meter with the coin box open. A tourist is thankful for a hundred steam restaurants that serve shark-fin or birds' nest soup, and curio shops for the curious. But nothing is more curious than the inner-city dwellers themselves: They burn candles on their foreheads, pour ice water on their heads to stay awake to decipher rent and medical receipts, and because they don't read English, they are not quite citizens.