Dr. Nouel said I was so well-behaved
During my four-hour appointment
That she ought to place me in a guide
On how to be a good, cooperating patient,
One who does not move one’s head,
One who does not shift the tongue.
Wish I could split in two and cooperate
Just as well with myself sometimes.
Let the world make its incisions
With me steady through a storm of drilling.
Into the AC’d air my bones firecracked,
Blew apart, flew up, then settled like snow
On my eyelids and cheeks. Relenting
Anesthesia and one zizz, one zing
To the nerve that registers pain
In that zone, what would I do?
Accidentally strike someone, scream,
Chomp and crack another tooth?
Make more saliva and bloodshed?
At times, is there no other option?
I am but shrapnel in the city’s crosshairs.
Waiting for the terrible inescapable,
I thrived in the safe seconds turned minutes
Of unfeeling. Either this or lose two teeth.
So much like decisions to be made
Daily. Move in it or freeze, let yourself
Disintegrate. A new way of living begins:
Not to fear grocery bags left on subway seats.
Not to fear a crowd of people running.
Not to mistake sirens for citywide emergency.
Personal emergencies are still active.
Still active, parts of the self still of the self.
Always either this, or that. What to keep,
Let go. What to repair, let rot. Feel
Or not feel. What to fear, walk into.
And what and what and what.
IF ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER ASKS, I’LL TELL HIM
There was a time I loved an Ecstaticist,
a puzzle of smashed glass, guitars, kisses
unruly as run-on sentences. He missed
so many dates, lost as he was, in trances.
Under the halo of one blonde Anaesthetist,
my mind grew darker shades of light.
I could raise neither cheer nor jeer nor fist.
That one died a peculiar death by amethyst.
The Endocrinologist? Full of questions,
always measuring. Did you notice changes
in bowels, skin, nails, mood? Any hair loss,
shortness of breath? Heart palpitations?
With the Paleontologist, I always felt
he was digging for what I could not
turn out, the scant eternity and secret
life of age, old bones, the mysteries of dirt.
But the one I adored most refused
to pray, refused to dance, refused
to love, refused to stay. He voted
NO, he tossed grenades at birds
at play. He loved disdain, applauded
joint and muscle pain. He finished
every meal with insults and a broken plate.
Like bricks, he piled pinch, punch, and blood.
For him, rarer than rare, happiness
was sadness at bay. He, the relentless Pessimist,
gave me all he had: one featherless parakeet,
his one good, grey eye, his last will and testament.
You see, he gave me everything, since
he knew—everything. Everything is lost.
SWEET HEART, SWEET LIGHT
Rosa tells me Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler
had a muse as well. “What was her name?”
“I don’t know.” And I tell her,
“That is not
much of a story.”
My muse is death.
When we meet I want perfection:
My hair holy, long-dipped in melon water;
skin buffed and minted,
bad decisions scarred over.
grown and stolen from the mouth
singing beneath my stone,
lines from a green spiritual
will, side by side, lay us down.
Death laughing at my jokes
will show it has lost all its teeth.
The punch lines will be, “Darling,
I’ve waited for you all my life”
and “No one has ever held me
IN DEFENSE OF SNOW
Its crystals could tell you so much
about its future, and past, circulating
the mink-stoled, the parka jet set,
and sidewalks of carpet-wrapped
homeless. They have surfed
coastlines, ski slopes, updrafts,
and determined launch-dates
for spacecraft. In a past life
as an ice cube plopped in a gimlet
they sloshed a wanton three seconds
in the mouth of a starlet, before
gliding the gullet of a laureate.
They know who did what with whom
at the last party in the troposphere
where they dazzled potentates and
made caviar and oyster shells
look lovelier than they really are.
After an argument about Edgar Allan
Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche, about who
had the better moustache, and before
turning down the advances of an avalanche,
the crystals once counseled a Tanzanian
teardrop, then had time to take confession
from a sooty line of carbon emissions.
The same snow might clear its throat,
loosen its ecclesiastical collar
to say, “It was like…no joke…it was
just like snorting trash.”
Yeah, you guessed it, the snow
can be an ass, and admits it’s
a manic gossip, too. Though sometimes
hard-hearted, the snow has nevertheless
cried on the nose tip of a polar bear
as it drifted on its own ice island,
broken away from a glacier
and the helpless pack; the snow
has sweated for a child clinging
to a parent disappearing in the sand
and wind of a desert; the brave snow
admits it has refused to let go
of a helicopter, because it was afraid
of the burning acres below. On occasion,
the snow has let out a small shrug
from the shoulder of a person,
on her knees, frozen near the peak
of Mount Everest. The snow
has been kissed, kicked, shoved,
loved, licked, missed, stoned;
cursed, drenched, blessed and blown.
Icy snow, sleet-like snow, plowed
snow, sugar-sprinkled, dyed snow;
snow so high it’s a wall; snow
so old, so wet it’s impermeable;
snow so fucking cold it burns. It thinks
it’s a flamingo, so it stands on one leg,
that confused, old, snowbound snow,
that Sanskrit, cuneiform, kanji soul.
Sweet nomad snow; carrot snow;
raisin-eyed blizzard, nor’easter,
biathlon snow. Dauntless, thoughtless,
slick and sheer willpower snow.
Appalachia, Himalaya, hello
Winnepeg snow. If you see it
in passing, say Nice weather
we’re having and Thank you,
for snow is the blood, the body,
the history, the eldest hunchbacked
troubadour of the world. Snow
is a small bird landing on your wrist,
a bird you should sing your favorite
song to. A lost language you spy
hiding behind a tree. The sum of
things we have gained, forgotten, lost.
Hand it some coins to cover its eyes,
to pay for the ferry and landing fee
on the shore of its next incarnation.
Someone ought to help, ought to
Remember the snow is here,
then gone, then back.
The snow is us, is ours, then not.
Yim Tan Wong is a Kundiman Emerging Asian American Poets Fellow and holds an MFA from Hollins University. Her first poetry collection has been a finalist for Four Way Books’ Levis Prize as well as the Alice James Books/Kundiman Poetry Prize. She recently received her very first Pushcart nomination, while her poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Tahoma Literary Review, A capella Zoo, Phoebe, RATTLE,Sakura Review, Tidal Basin Review, Mascara Literary Review (Australia), and Crab Orchard Review, among other journals.