poems from Ken Chen's Love Songs Not About Lee and Other Poems
by a note on the author
Father and My Mother Decide My Future
and How Could We Forget Wang Wei
on the bed. My grandfather is packing up
organs. This completed, he takes a taxi to my grandmothers
for supper. Exits
empty car to Taipei alley.
Now the Los Altos lot.
So did you listen to him, MY FATHER says taking his keys out of
the ignition. You should
become a lawyer but your grandfather says anything is fine. As
youre the best.
FATHER stays, MY MOTHER stays silent. I sit and suck my thumb.
I saw your painting. It was beautiful, my mother says to WANG
behind us by backseat-belt and streetlight world WANG WEI
the silent bamboo woods, sitting along
strings and bellowing long.
America is allergic to bamboo, MY FATHER to WANG WEI. They love
skill sets, cash and
the first person singular, the language of C++ not our English.
Steps out, shuts the
door, puts gas pump by Acura trunk. My fathers son does
not understand, forgets the
Chinese he never remembered. But my mother holds words in her
Peking opera soundtrack of my childhood. You sound like it. Id
listen to it on the
radio. You know, when I had to sweep the floor. And then WANG
knows but the deep grove
the luminous moon that glows in response.
moon not glow or as the translation might say, irradiates
beige screen before MY MOTHER, now at HP, after Taipei and degree
in Home Ec.
and divorce. MY MOTHER like the moon which rents light from its
past, MY MOTHER
who says, looking at the dashboard, You should listen to your
father. I dont know. Here
FATHER unlocks the door and says, Dropped the keys in the toilet.
But thats what life is
like. Youre young, MY FATHER says, Im not sure to
me or WANG WEI, You dont understand the
world, the world which loves those who enter it and then WANG
hearts in the southern country
comes with stems enlarging.
didnt know you two were still together.
not, MY FATHER says. Youre eavesdropping on my sons
son? WANG WEI of monochromatic line turns behind
holds seat-strap with left hand and asks talk-show serenely: Who
has seen me. Like the scene
in the movie, where the actors find the camera and say Stop
looking at me, they stand and quit the car the way a breeze would.
And I say:
youd gather some, caught me
of this thing that is longing.
Wang Wei asks: Who are you?
And my Father says: Decide.
omissions of the subject allows the poet not to intrude his own
personality upon the scene
J. Y. Liu, The Art of Chinese Poetry
can tell the wind is risin, leaves trembling on the tree,
on the tree.
fathers father holding still, holding still a traffic jam
My fathers mother steaming chicken, boiling soy and air.
My mothers father dangling years a broken pocket
My mothers mother bearing a wedding dress.
My mother with such passion, sad beneath her silent face
frozen, a fashion ad.
My father pressed in black and white a single paper lantern
pasted in the air beside him.
got to keep movin, Ive got to keep movin
fallin down like hail
close the album and my family members fold
against each other. Faces that would not kiss in life
press together as the pages close.
standin at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
eeee, I tried to flag a ride
nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by
pages have deserted books and hair from heads.
When pictures yet to be taken seem old and worn.
When my family now long gone resurrects itself, the ghosts
roaming through our dinner table
The steam from the vermicelli broth rises up like an apparition.
My grandmothers cooking. Our knives and forks
tick against our plates while we eat, unaware that we are achieving
conjure our ghosts with these photographs in words.
I will cough my grandfathers cough and my wife smiles her
Ken Chen was born in San Diego, California in
1979, and was educated at the University California at Berkeley
and Yale University, where he obtained a BA in English Literature
(with a minor in Creative Writing) and a JD. He lives in Brooklyn,
New York, where he works as an Associate Attorney, pending admission
to the New York Bar. His poems have appeared in the Boston
Review of Books, Pleiades, Bridge, Radical
Society, 5 Fingers Review, Art Asia Pacific
and Palimpsest. He won the MeThree Literary Criticism contest
and was a finalist in the Barrow Street Book Prize and the Diner
Mother and Father Decide My Future and How Could We Forget Wang
Wei" first appeared in Palimpsest: Yale Literary &
Arts Magazine, and "Echo" first appeared in the
Berkeley Poetry Review.