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Not Meant As Poems

from Rain in Plural by Fiona Sze-Lorrain (Princeton University Press, 2020)


I   Power in a Crystal Sarcophagus 

Like Kim Il-sung.
Like Marcos.
Like Lenin.  

Behind his glossy face, he tears at his own skin.  

take an oath 
to his embalmed blood, a frozen sea 
at the mercy of its sun. 

He eats fear.
He rapes fear. 

He sweet-talks fear.
He markets fear. 

Walk in circles.  No whisper.  No pictures. 

Are you scheming?  [To kill or to shield?]
Will you go on strike?  [For a safe past or future?]


No big deal.
Free your langue de bois.
No one will meddle, no army 
Political tracts as state souvenir
they cite from Time Out and the Upanishads
free of charge, 
red ones at the first checkpoint, 
brown ones at the exit. 

I am not a journalist 
or part-time activist, I come here 
on a whim, of free will. 
For a poem . . .
Down with spectators!
Shame on curiosity!
Just look innocent and let the beast 
and more visitors
sweating and grunting 
like hippopotamuses in a private bioreserve.   


II   Putin’s Dog 

 can’t bark.  

Putin’s dog 
can’t jump
from a lofty height.   

Putin’s dog
can’t fornicate
with other bourgeois dogs  

on a winter stroll 
in the Tsaritsyno Park. 

Putin’s dog 
can’t beg,
but is groomed, 
and fed.  With what  

 I have no idea, neither 
does the press.  

Putin’s dog
can’t fire 
its master 
or look sick. 
It won’t suffer 

beating or torture, 
but can’t sleep 
without having to hide. 

But Putin’s dog, like 
all dogs, can 
(thank God)
or caca 
whenever it likes.   


III   Written in the Vernacular 

 Four a.m.  
I fidget with a stone inkpot,  

never empty, never filled.   

Nothing in my song 

             indicates despair.  The rain of a world
             in late, organized joy.   


Twofold agenda: a new strophe over the latent,  

the pulse of reason writ into insufferable verbs.  


Proper silence, that which is anti-point.   


Without a window, the space has no weather. 


List each angeryou won’t live each trial twice.  


To an unseen Buddha,
a mellow discourse, 
hushed talk of lay nuns 
[faces opaque, like mine, like yours]
who can’t parry their belief
of an immortal systemis it about power  

                                                      or moralswith or without hidden 

two meals on weekends [usually corn flour bread], 
long walks, 
good deeds, 
an elusive rat from chair to chair. 


To quote Solzhenitsyn, Blah blah blah . . . 

Tsvetaeva, Nnh, nnh, nnh . . . 

I delete violence from words that fly too soon.