Tonight while the Stars are Shimmering

A burst of red hibiscus on the hill
ppppppppppppppp A dahlia-blue silence chills the path
Compassion falters on highway 8
ppppppppppppppp Between La Jolla and Julian you are sad
Across the Del Mar shores I ponder my dead mother
ppppppppppppppp Between heaven and earth, a pesky brown gull
The sky is green where it meets the ocean
ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp You're the master of subterfuge, my love
A plume of foul orange from a duster plane
ppppppppppppppp I wonder what poison he is releasing, you say
A steep wall of wildflowers, perhaps verbena
pppppppppppppppp Purple so bright they mock the robes of God.


In Feudal China you would've been drowned at birth
ppppppppppppppppppp In India charred for a better dowry
How was I saved on that boat of freedom
ppppppppppppppp To be anointed here on the prayer mat of your love?
High humidity, humiliation on the terrain
ppppppppppppp Oi, you can't describe the ocean to the well frog
I call you racist, you call me racist
ppppppppppppppppp Now, we're entering forbidden territory
I call you sexist, you call me a fool
And compare the canyons to breasts, anyway
I pull your hair, you bite my nape
We make mad love until birdsong morning

You tear off your shirt, you cry out to the moon
In the avocado grove you find peaches
You curse on the precipice, I weep near the sea
The Tribune says NOBODY WILL MARRY YOU
YOU'RE ALREADY FORTY
My mother followed a cockcrow, my granny a dog
Their palms arranged my destiny
Look, there's Orion, look, the Dog Star,
Sorry, your majesty, your poetry has lost its duende
Look, baby, baby, stop the car
A mouse and a kitty hawk, they are dancing


Yellow-mauve marguerites close their faces at dusk
Behind the iron gate, a jasmine breeze
In life we share a pink quilt, in death a blue vault
Shall we cease this redress, this wasteful ransom?
Your coffee is bitter, your spaghetti is sad
Is there no ending this colloquy?
Ms. Lookeast, Ms. Lookeast
What have we accomplished this century?
I take your olive branch deep within me
A white man's guilt, a white man's love
Tonight while the stars are shimmering


From RHAPSODY IN PLAIN YELLOW (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002)


Poems by Marilyn Chin

Beijing Spring

Hospital Interlude

Tonight while the Stars are Shimmering