Published on Academy of American Poets (

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


Copyright © 2014 by Marilyn Chin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 24, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

“Just as [William] Blake saw the world in ‘a grain of sand,’ with oppositional force, I try to capture the world’s injustice in one temporal ‘Chinese American quatrain.’

The first piece is comprised of two classic call-and-response quatrains. The first voice offers an argument and the second voice counters it. In the second piece I employ what I call the ‘cruel juxtaposition’ strategy.  I juxtapose the history of oppression against women by using disturbing elliptical images of the dead mother’s body parts against a reference to Basho’s famous frog poem, which describes the perfect Zen distilled moment. Two heavy incongruous ideas happening on one tiny lotus pad. The third piece offers a cruel juxtaposition self-consciously contrasting an entitled American poet’s easy life against those of dying boys in a faraway war. And just in case the reader misses the message, I duplicate the quatrain for emphasis.”
—Marilyn Chin


Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. The author of five poetry collections, she currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2014-04-24

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