First thing every morning after waking up, I take a pill that may cause drowsiness. The darkness begins to peel away in long, uneven strips, exposing patches of brighter darkness underneath. Later, I’ll feel as I often do, like a candle eavesdropping on sunlight. Going up on the escalator, a vague little man who reminds me of me will hug a bag from Infinity Shoes to his chest. I’ll have the sense that anyone who isn’t a victim is a suspect. In infinity shoes, you could, theoretically, walk forever.
For a year I went blind as a freight train, thrashed
in a wild grief, because nothing as loud
as my sorrow could be heard. Now, in the formless dark
I can’t untangle my tongue
even to know what kind of help to ask.
But he tells me I’m all flintstrike
deep in the basement’s gut: again, again, again, again—
Can’t say I’m worried about success because I don’t really know what constitutes success in the poetry world. Book sales? Fellowships? Being invited to read or interviewed? Having people request your work rather than having to send it out cold? I don’t ever want to think that what I’m doing is automatic, or that I can’t fail. Too many once-great poets (no names here) have let their work go stale, and I wonder if it’s because no editor will tell them “this sucks — I don’t want it.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be a great poet, but whatever I am, I don’t want to be a guy who writes the same poem over and over again, no matter how well I write it.
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight.
The body of a bird in your mouth
Raw light spills from your eyes,
You must breach the horizon, once,
in order to wake up.
You must open window after window.
You must support the walls.
I let alphabets cling to me
as I climb the thread of language
between myself and the world.
I muster crowds in my mouth:
suspended between language and the world,
between the world and the alphabets.
I let my head
listen to the myth,
to all sides praising each other.
And I shout at the winds from the top of a mountain.
Why does my tongue tell me to climb this far?
What is the distance between my voice and my longing? What is there?
A body transcending my body.
A body exiled by desire.
A body sheltered by the wind.
The sky has taken away light.
Is it punishment? the newspaper editorial asked. We thought God was dead.
Forgive us, they said. Whoever you are, forgive us.
The newspaper printed this as if God could read.
Everybody should learn to code, he says, because machine/human and machine/machine interaction is becoming as ubiquitous as human/human interaction. Those who don’t know how to code soon will be in the same position as those who couldn’t read or write 200 years ago.
“When the heart is not enough it finds another room. Water does this. Traffic slows for rain. Let the tangled roots come and teach you sprawl, moral substitution, efficiency: every weed leans towards the ungraspable. In time fingers write their own music whether or not they are slender. Breathe. Make your own gravity, pull down sunlight. It takes longer than years to cross the door.”
— Other Things and Other Poems
(new and selected poems, with Croatian translation)
by Alvin Pang
Long time no Books Actually. September, fingers crossed, I’ll stop by. Be still, my beating bibliophilia…