The Barbarians Are Coming

War chariots thunder, horses neigh, the barbarians are coming.
What are we waiting for, young nubile women pointing at the wall,
   the barbarians are coming.
They have heard about a weakened link in the wall. So, the barbarians
   have ears among us.
So deceive yourself with illusions: you are only one woman, holding one
   broken brick in the wall.
So deceive yourself with illusions: as if you matter, that brick and that wall.
The barbarians are coming: they have red beards or beardless with a top knot.
The barbarians are coming: they are your fathers, brothers, teachers, lovers;
   and they are clearly an other.
The barbarians are coming:
            If you call me a horse, I must be a horse.
            If you call me a bison, I am equally guilty.

When a thing is true and is correctly described, one doubles the blame by
   not admitting it: so, Zhuangzi, himself, was a barbarian king!
Horse, horse, bison, bison, the barbarians are coming—
and how they love to come.
The smells of the great frontier exult in them.

More by Marilyn Chin

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

Quiet the Dog, Tether the Pony

        A lament for Don (1958-2011)

Gaze     gaze      beyond the vermilion door

Leaf      leaf       tremble    fall

Stare blankly      at the the road's      interminable end

Reduplications     cold      cold     mountains

Long     long    valleys          broad    broad     waters

Tears     are exhausted      now    shed    blood

Deep    deep     the baleful courtyards     who knows how deep

Folds on folds       of curtains

Gates         trap        infinite      twilight

Walk     walk        through     waning meadows

Steep     steep        toward       ten-thousand Buddhas

Knuckles     blue     on the balustrade

In the land of      missing      pronouns

Sun     is a     continuous     performance

And we      my lover      are      nothing

from Two Inch Fables

Yellow gold is meaningless
Learning is better than pearls
A woman without brilliance
Leaves nothing but dim children
You can hawk your gold if you’re hungry
Sell your mule when you’re desperate
What can you do with so many poems
Sprouting dead hairs in an empty coffin

Lotus: pink     dewlapped     pretty
Lotus: upturned palm of my dead mother
Lotus:  a foot       a broken arch
Lotus:  plop      and a silent     ripple
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur