Affection: A Bilingualcultural Poem

In Chinese, 朋友,恋人,& 爱人 are all
12-stroked characters, just as their counter-
Parts friend, couple & spouse are 6-lettered
Words in the imperial vocabulary of English

Though they are all underlined with human

Love and loyalty, the former entails twice
As much input or effort of the heart
As the latter to maintain a disparately
Similar humane relationship as a speech

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Touched by Fire

I drank from the fur cup. It tasted like you – orange blossom honey infused with fire. If our forebears had remained in the Pale of Settlement, herding cows, exhorting God, they would have been destroyed with the rest, and we would never have happened. History is riddled with obscure coincidences. The poète maudit Stéphane Mallarme died from the same disease I have. There is no cure, no absolution, no escape. I am not only a prisoner, but also the prison. Please spare me visits from the sort of people who refer to poetry as “verse.” I just want to stand chest-deep in your flames.

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One Night on the Riverbed

Nighttime medicine, 
Benzene blue his eyes and soul— 
How slowly we fall. 

Silent Lorelei,
An embrace of glassy green
On my skin again. 

Dark blue, pinhole stars,
My body the midnight sky
Bending over his.

Hand on hand. Dreams slip
Into the underbelly
Of the universe. 

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The Beard On My Face

She used to touch the beard on my face,
Whether nascent or full,
And stroke it with two fingers.
She would indulge in the bristles
As they bit tenderly into her chin
When we kissed and kissed
The way we used to
Kiss and kiss.
She loved when it was mostly brown and a little blonde and ginger
And loved it more when the white began to overtake the brown and blonde
And touch of ginger.
If I shaved because it’s not our world but theirs
And I must get along sometimes
She would be sad but understanding of that.

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Rocket Man

I said my goodbyes, turned back to the shore, stopped trying to find you. It took me awhile, took me a few more pink striped skies, a few more mountains, a few more years. But I found my way, wrested my skin from yours, saved myself from going under. I talk to you still, the way we always talked, close and deep without platitudes or pretense. You know I have forgiven you for all the ways you almost took me with you. You didn’t mean to, never meant for me to get swept into your undertow. You tried to stop it but I was desperate for a reason to fade away.

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Venice

the hardest thing

about this memory is
how it keeps coming back

to me, still

holding warmth like peach tea
left out in midday sun like
the midday sun that came

floating back

across the canal white rose petals

skitter-scattered

across the ruffled surface
released by hesitant hands and

coming home

shivering.

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Redemption

Life, the iredeemer. No wonder there’s a God, not unlike there’s hate and always a dollar in St. Anthony’s change for a cigarette from the Pakistani or Indian bodega kept up by a family who kneels just the same to different names, and praises the canonized coin in their jars writ with wishes that God won’t stop depositing dimes or spare quarters for some beatific order: smoke, family, like love. What cans to be had.

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Learning from Asiatic Lily

As red lick of sunrise brightens the air you stand near sheets of greenery pause beside pillows of hosta / moss witness / where love lands to kiss lilium lips. Slick with dew / petals glow as tongued bowls greet wasp answer beetle / respond in kind. You / too / were once kissed warmed in morning light.

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