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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
Inner-City Blues
To Page 4 . Page 1 . Page 2

In the onslaught of the inadvertent machinery...

Twenty blackbirds on snowy mountains, the arrogant bard,
or, twenty times the development of Japan in twenty years?
Now that machinery replaces missionaries,
and I have lost so many poems, written even, typed with the rhythm
of an inner-city typewriter, a gift from a family who bought a navy toilet...

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,
satisfied, lazy,
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,
unregistered, unacknowledged,
as I came back from the wood mill some twenty years ago
and slept with a cigarette,
with the sawdust still in my lungs,
not-thinking thinking-like
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
electric lights
electrify and insectify my room
eleventh floor
industriously looking at Seattle
with my mind getting lighter
with a rim
of cranes at the harbor
this side
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,
Blinking lights,
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!

The Solitudes...
"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...
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 relax into this poem as you'd be pleased to expect nothing
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...

Sometimes you just have to stop talking...
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 is beginning to focus...
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
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 Relish in the mundane...
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...
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,
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...

In a Chinese Restaurant
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.

The Usher's Tie
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.

My Room Squats Modestly
			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.

Under the Oak
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

Inner-City Blues
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
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.