Music from Childhood

John Yau - 1950-

You grow up hearing two languages. Neither fits your fits
Your mother informs you “moon” means “window to another world.”

You begin to hear words mourn the sounds buried inside their mouths
A row of yellow windows and a painting of them

Your mother informs you “moon” means “window to another world.”
You decide it is better to step back and sit in the shadows

A row of yellow windows and a painting of them
Someone said you can see a blue pagoda or a red rocket ship

You decide it is better to step back and sit in the shadows
Is it because you saw a black asteroid fly past your window

Someone said you can see a blue pagoda or a red rocket ship
I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water

Is it because I saw a black asteroid fly past my window
The air hums—a circus performer riding a bicycle towards the ceiling

I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water
The town has started sinking back into its commercial

The air hums—a circus performer riding a bicycle towards the ceiling
You grow up hearing two languages. Neither fits your fits

The town has started sinking back into its commercial
You begin to hear words mourn the sounds buried inside their mouths
 

More by John Yau

Russian Letter

It is said, the past
sticks to the present

like glue,
that we are flies

struggling to pull free
It is said, someone

cannot change
the clothes

in which
their soul

was born.
I, however,

would not
go so far

Nor am I Rembrandt,
master of the black

and green darkness,
the hawk's plumes

as it shrieks
down from the sky

Overnight

            In Memory of Paul Violi (1944–2011)


I did not realize that you were fading from sight
I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition

You most likely would have made a joke of it
Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft

I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition
The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open

Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft
You might call this the first of many red herrings

The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open
The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream

You might call this the first of many red herrings
The shield you were given as a child did not protect you

The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream
One by one the words leave you, even this one

The shield you were given as a child did not protect you
The sword is made of air before you knew it

One by one the words leave you, even this one
I did not realize that you were fading from sight

The sword is made of air before you knew it
You most likely would have made a joke of it

Related Poems

the great american yellow poem

she heard tales about saving grapefruit skins for cooking
she grew bright under the neon dragon of Chinatown
she made saffron curry rice for friends
she attended a barbecue in Amarillo, Texas
she stepped around yellow piss in snow
she cut herself on a Hawaiian pineapple
she learned to name forsythia where it grew
visions of ochre and citronella eluded her