Brief Lives [excerpt]
Descartes in Love
Love, accepting that we are not pure and lucent hearts, ricocheting towards each other like unlatched stars—no, we are tainted with self. We sometimes believe the self is an invisible glass, just as we believe the body is a suit made of meat. Doubt all things invisible. Doubt all things visible.
Not to be a tragic person. What is a tragic person? The victim of a crime who does not realize the criminal is himself.
Adonis Prettyboy in Hell And then her son with love-gun and a quiver snatched a love-shaft and delivered—a twiggy arrow in her nipple like a nasty sliver... A big pig stuck me with his tusk, but it's life that's the bore, silly! I never got desire, I always got what I wanted And in this hallway incredulous of lights, I want wild pears, firm booblike fruit—Daffodils! Clovers! And the trill of starlings why not! We could grow apples here... Apples? So, I suppose I do miss her —You know when I fell out of life I grabbed her heart like a rope;
The target audience of my secrets is not my friends, but my journals and the strangers who will read them in the future.
Child of Immigrants
I used to pretend I was American.
This was until I realized I was American.
What is forgiveness? When someone else's sin becomes merely an action we ourselves might plausibly commit. The virtue of hypocrisy—we temporarily become people other than ourselves and can notice our actions from the other side, as saintly as no one.
Io Symbol is abridgement. I am not a cow and Argus not omniscience. We are clockfraught beings. The man I love stopped my heart when he froze the world to night. My heart being part of the world.
Copyright © 2011 by Ken Chen. Used with permission of the author.
Ken Chen is the author of Juvenilia (Yale University Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Yale Younger Poets Award selected by Louise Glück. A graduate of Yale Law School, Chen served as the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop from 2008 to 2019. He is currently a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library.
Date Published: 2011-11-18
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/brief-lives-excerpt