The Floral Apron

The woman wore a floral apron around her neck,
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”

She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as a child’s nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.

Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion fogged our senses,
and we absolved her for that moment’s barbarism.
Then, she, an elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the Asian plight.

And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
—on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
that floral apron.

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