Turtle Soup

You go home one evening tired from work,
and your mother boils you turtle soup.
Twelve hours hunched over the hearth
(who knows what else is in that cauldron.)

You say, “Ma, you’ve poached the symbol of long life;
that turtle lived four thousand years, swam
the Wei, up the Yellow, over the Yangtze.
Witnessed the Bronze Age, the High Tang,
grazed on splendid sericulture.”
(So, she boils the life out of him.)

“All our ancestors have been fools.
Remember Uncle Wu who rode ten thousand miles
to kill a famous Manchu and ended up
with his head on a pole? Eat, child,
its liver will make you strong.”

“Sometimes you’re the life, sometimes the sacrifice.”
Her sobbing is inconsolable.
So, you spread the gentle napkin
over your lap in decorous Pasadena.

Baby, some high priestess got it wrong.
The golden decal on the green underbelly
says “Made in Hong Kong.”

Is there nothing left but the shell
and humanity’s strange inscriptions,
the songs, the rites, the oracles?

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