Marilyn Chin

Millennium, Six Songs


Black swollen fruit dangling on a limb
Red forgotten flesh sprayed across the prairie
Parched brown vines creeping over the wall
Yellow winged pollen, invisible enemies

Boluses without homesteads, grubs without a voice
Burrowed deeply into this land's dark, dark heart
Someday, our pods and pupae shall turn in the earth
And burgeon into our motherlode's bold beauty

We're a seed on the manure, on the sole of your shoe
We're the louse trapped in your hank of golden hair
We're the sliver that haunts beneath your thumbnail
We the church mouse you scorched with a match but lived

We're the package wrapped, return address unknown
We're the arm lowered again, again, a bloodied reverie
We've arrived shoeless, crutchless, tousle-haired, swollen-bellied
We shall inherit this earth's meek glory, as foretold
II. (For Leah, my niece)

They gave you a title, but you were too proud to wear it
They gave you the paterland, but you were too lazy to farm it

Your condo is leaking, but you're too angry to repair it
Your dress has moth holes, but you're too sentimental to toss it

You're too bored to play the lute, it hangs on the wall like an ornament
The piano bites you, it's an eight-legged unfaithful dog

Love grows in the garden, but you're too impudent to tend it
A nice Hakka boy from Ogden, so hardworking, so kind

The prayer mat is for prayer, not for catamite nipple-piercing
The Goddess wags her finger at your beautiful wasteland

A dream deferred, well, is a dream deferred
IV. (Janie's retort, on her fortieth birthday)

The same stars come around and around and around
The same sun pecks her heat at the horizon
The same housing tract, the same shopping center
The same blunt haircut: Chinese, Parisian, Babylonion
The same lipstick: red and it comes off on your coffeecup
The same stars come around and around and around
The same sun tarries in the late noon sky
The same word for mom: Ah ma, madre, mere, majka
The same birthbabe: bald, purplish, you slap to make cry
The same stench: mother's milk, shit and vomit
The same argument between a man and a woman
The same dog, hit by a car, the same escaped canary
The same turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year
The same three-tiered freeway: Istanbul, Tokyo, San Diego
The same hill, the same shanty town, the same lean-to
The same skyscraper: Hong Kong, Singapore, Toledo
The same soup: chicken, though the veggies may vary
The same rice for supper: white, brown or wild
The same stars come around and around and around
The same sun dips her head into the ocean
The same tree in the same poem by the same poet
The same old husband: saggy breasts, baggy thighs
The same blackness whether we sleep or die
Whoever abandoned her grandmother at the bus stop
Whoever ran in and out the door like a blind wind
spinning the upside-down prosperity sign right side up again
Whoever lost her virtue in darkly paneled rooms with white boys
Whoever prayed for round eyes
and taped her eyelids in waiting
Whoever wore platform shoes
blustering taller than her own kind
Whoever sold her yellow gold for Jehovah
Whoever discarded her jade Buddha for Christ
Why are you proud, father, entombed with the other woman?
Why are you proud, mother, knitting my shroud in heaven?
Why are you proud, fish, you feed the greedy mourners?
Why are you proud, peonies, your heads are bowed and weighty?
Why are you proud, millennium, the dialect will die with you?
Why are you proud, psalm, hammering yourself into light?
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