WONG, YIM TAN L.

MANUAL

 

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.

 

Bearing wildflowers

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

          this close.”

 

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 ReviewLittle Patuxent ReviewTahoma Literary ReviewA capella ZooPhoebeRATTLE,Sakura ReviewTidal Basin ReviewMascara Literary Review (Australia), and Crab Orchard Review, among other journals.

Yim Tan L. Wong (Sunday-11.09.2014)

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