Six poems by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

a is for alienation


seeing that the holidays have come around
everyone ready to cross state lines in sedans
parking lots and main roads emptied out
even the corner pitstop shutters its doors
on this christmas eve strangely tranquil
as the reader vaguely recalls the week before
blurring into stormy nights on pismire island
the way sisley would repaint molesey weir
the palm warbler next to the prairie warbler
against a blue canvas where the mermaid
surfaces to break water to wander closer
to shore the way the reader is hunched over
manet’s dead matador his head turned
to his left as if in resignation and remorse
or the beggar with oysters also named
the philosopher as if heidegger wrapped
a black shawl just like that over his chest
like a breastplate even as the security guard
scours the floor for someone looking forlorn
yet alert enough for an evening of discourse
with the priest waiting for his annual ride
to an equally quiet family dinner and hoping
for someone to read him the day’s headlines
each a lyric reminder of this forgotten world

g is for grund or folge

in view of how hegel himself rose from life
in entfremdung clinging onto the bedpost
as if grasping at a stolen consciousness
the colour of the reader’s dreamscape
reddening like his bare feet up on the hill
the four common grackles scavenging
wildly pecking at a loaf of tuna their wings
outstretched flapping over a round table
shadows looking like four netted starfish
converging to talk about nature as if
the reader had made his way down
from cruelty but first leaving a folded note
by the cash register a cryptic schliessen
as two boys outside chase down the cat
with rat poison intent on snaring frogs too
only to clean themselves up for dinner
like the good doctor to join the party of five
the way it’s time the priest asked them
about willing promises and safekeeping
as an aunt yanks a car thief by his collar
to level this good earth with the best
of intentions then drops to her knees
crippled by doubt about dogma and sin
like jim casy prone on the memorial brass

h is for hothr

reniorseeing that this winter’s sun has already set
and the light in the room remains small
like the yellow hats of renoir’s boating party
orange stripes of the tentage brightening
the blue dress made of the same satin
around the girl with black tap shoes and
hoop of cane in two of my favourite colours
says the reader as he browses the shelves
to see which book sits like a naive hothr
ready to let loose the mistletoe arrow
perhaps something by proust or melville or
thomas mann saying solitude gives birth
to an original syntax by the writer in us
an undiscovered and unspoken poetry
a beauty at once unfamiliar and dangerous
hesburgh leaning forward to say something
then to look ahead as if to see the colour of
his reader’s eyes whether they are black or
bole or umber or bloodshot like an old vein
running down a forearm or the maroon
of heliotrope as if to reflect his dark mood
this evening when another year has passed
as he gets to keep his vigil a bit longer
like an unexpected epoch arriving in time

i is for ibis & indri

inasmuch as ibis and indri wore their black
on their sleeves and around their eyes
as if to say we’re not getting any sleep
nor losing any over the senseless slaughter
of innocents as kangarewe looks away
her eyes glazed as she thinks of parents
she never came to know the way the fennec fox
turned the tabletop globe to madagascar
cupped its paw over its mouth like a muzzle
to say you’re a lemur not a monkey
look at the snout and how it knows danger
the way noordas’ thale kept herself under
covers submerged in milk in the tub
her cow tail already surgically sawed off
as if to mock the huldra as phallus
devoid of speech and rational thought
the way folklore is evolutionary too
from nordmarka forest to kilsbergen’s ridge
to lofoten where there’s no more pine

p is for porcupine

inasmuch as the porcupine thought he suffered
from autism which explained his irritability
or some strange aphasia where he’d read
erasure into french or german or mandarin
until he discovered philip schultz’s dyslexia
but sometimes going cold turkey would
end with twenty novels read in one sitting
a kind of hyperlexia wittgenstein said
looking at the porcupine the way a savant
would witness a miracle or sighting of angels
the same whitsun angels that appeared on
the starboard then portside where the possum
was trawling for puffer fish until the platypus
outtalked the pelican and proboscis monkey
into letting it dive deeper to meet eurydice
on her umpteenth ascent to the surface
so the nacre of her pearls would glisten
in the light from the ship lantern

s is for sea dragon

spooninasmuch as the sea dragon floated out from
its camouflage to say it dreamt big dreams
of the high arctic camel beside a larch tree
that rose into the sky like an arrow pointing
to a cosmology of dragons upon which
kangarewe opened invisible pages as if
the book were eliot’s prufrock and lazarus
was actually holding out both his hands as if
in supplication or exhortation or admiration
not that wittgenstein could tell as he guided
eliot to camus who ever only talked of what
would eventually matter like one’s will
towards happiness the sort of consciousness
necessary which meant something enormous
and always present to the moment
like eliot back in burnt norton to open
the poem with heraclitus as if a kind of flux
needed to happen like the sea dragon
receding to where it called home

Helming Squircle Line Press as its founding editor, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé is the author of The Arbitrary Sign (Red Wheelbarrow Books), and I Didn’t Know Mani Was A Conceptualist (Math Paper Press). He has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books, several pro bono for non-profit organizations. His honors include the PENAmericanCenter Shorts Prize, Swale Life Poetry Prize, Cyclamens & Swords Poetry Prize, Stepping Stones Nigeria Poetry Prize, Notre Dame Poetry Fellowship, Vallum New International Poetics Award, Singapore International Foundation Grant, NAC Writer-in-the-Gardens Residency, Hiew Siew Nam Distinguished Academic Award, and Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize. An interdisciplinary artist, Desmond also works in clay, his ceramic works housed in museums in India, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.

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