Zoushen

April 13, 2024  :: 0 comments

In my mother tongue, zou (走) literally means walk, while shen (神) means spirit or deity. Together, zoushen is a set phrase commonly used to describe the psychological state of being absent-minded, but during my recent China trip, I learned from my 83-year-old mother that it is also jargon referring to the shamanistic art of evoking a spirit. When I …

Tip for Achieving Immortality

featured in the poetry forum February 13, 2015  :: 0 comments

You know it damn too well: You can never
Hope to maintain your posthumous metaphor
Behind your very best poem, nor can you
Expect your capitalized name to remain
Permanently visible on the hardest tombstone
But you could tell your family to convert your
Entire being (together with all the words you
Have chosen for poetry) into fertilizer, spreading it
Around the metasequonia you have planted deep
In this foreign soil, where you can supply
Enough nutrition to a leaf or a twig, through
Which you can take some oxygen from the air
And even hold a dewdrop on a summer morning
Watching another, and just another civilization
Unfolding itself beyond this immortal tree

editors note:

The ultimate monument; memorial mulch. – mh

Personality Overdrafting

featured in the poetry forum November 29, 2013  :: 0 comments

Born with a deformed heart muscle
You are as timid, introverted and cowardly
As a little quiet chick, but all your life
You have been trying to play tough, forcing
Yourself to be tough-minded, tough-bodied
Like an iron fighter rooster in the legend
Until now your worsening ischemia
Drives you into your old premature self-hood
With cardio neurosis, trembling, all
Thanks to a tenant, a sociopath, a rattlesnake
More evil than Satan, whose greatest joy
Is to destroy you as a petty landlord
Of a rental property full of foreign words

editors note:

So, much bias toward tenants’ rights; buyer’s remorse is this owner’s only recourse. – mh

confession of a family doctor

featured in the poetry forum May 23, 2013  :: 0 comments

oh my lord, no longer do I remember
the exact wording of my oath
(that may well contain the phrase ‘relieve suffering’)
but I am still keenly aware of
my ever high-sounding profession
to which I had to lie to enter in the first place:
I volunteered at nursing homes and
community centers, not because
I really had a loving heart, but because
I needed that to be impressive
on my resume, on my application
to the prestigious medical school

now often do I claim to cure everything
though nothing in reality, I pretend to be
nice, polite and caring, though tired of all that
I never put my patients’ health before profits
not because I fear to be black-listed
but because I think I deserve more than I gain

let the patient get sick, better bleed
so I can give pills or send him
to hospitals, where my partners can
get at him, with knives or more pills

editors note:

Ouch! One fears this is not a fictional character; sad, sad and maddening – the ulimate “hypocritic oaf”. (Thanks to the late, great satirist, Walt Kelly for pegging this kind of slug first.) – mh

By Now: A Parallel Poem

featured in the poetry forum May 15, 2012  :: 0 comments

By now, the words like good
Beautiful, and truth have been so abused
They are meaningless
Reduced to blanks or holes
And the whole language becomes
Insufficient, deformed, absurd:
People are trying to communicate in a dialect
Or, rather, in a series of utterances
Whose meanings are yet to be invented

We have a syntax as powerful as before
But we have no more proper words in the proper place

editors note:

Form trumps content these days; the stronger the spin, the emptier the message. We’re starving down here! – mh

20 Imperial Imperatives

June 8, 2011  :: 0 comments

Come on
Let there be right
Don’t be afraid
This above all: to thine own self be true
Speak the devil
Watch your thoughts, your words, your actions, your habits and your character goods
Pee eight glasses of water every day to keep yourself fit
Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by impotence
Don’t fart in front of her Majesty
Those who believe in telekinetics, praise my hand
Be the ex-change you wish to see in the world
Beware of hog
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of bold
Say you love me
Do not dance with a pig – you’ll both get excited, but the pig will not enjoy it
Sit
Forget yourself and write only for the public
Do not fuck with locals
Let a hundred flowers gloom

Semantic Insanities

featured in the poetry forum June 8, 2011  :: 0 comments

When stars are out, they are visible, but when lights are out, they are not
When your wind up your watch, your start it, but when you wind up a poem, you end it
Houses can burn up as they burn down, where you fill in a form by filling it out

A slim chance is the same as a fat one, but a wise man is by no means a wise guy
Quite a few and quite a lot are alike, but to overlook is not to oversee
The weather can be hot as hell in summer and cold as hell in winter

As we live, our alarm clock goes off by going on

America Deep in Debt at Everett

May 12, 2010  :: 0 comments

Also on the morning of March 3
I was driving south light-heartedly
Along I-5, as an invited reader to perform my poetry
To a friendlier post-bush America
When a gloomy-looking trooper (numbered 837)
Suddenly stopped me supposedly for my safety’s sake
I must give you – eh, a speeding ticket.
-Why me sir! I was just following the traffic.
But you are the first one I saw.
-Simply because I have a Canadian license plate?
If you were an American, I would do the same.

Lost in anger against such blatant discrimination
(Or bad luck,) I stopped protesting
While shaking my head all the time, peacefully

Oh, poor America! Look at this armed boy of yours
He is ambushing your neighbor like a robber
To help bail you out of your financial shit

I thought, but never said so
For fear of getting another ticket, bigger or thicker

The Privilege of Being a Poetry Scribbler

May 12, 2010  :: 0 comments

On the morning of March 3, I was detained
At Peace Arch by American Customs Officers
For planning to sell my autographed copies
Or smuggling my poems in a book form

It’s illegal to come to America and sell your stuff.
-Yes, I understand, I understand.
You are not allowed to get paid for reading poetry.
-I will remember this, remember this.
Another officer could have refused you entry.
-Sure, sure, surely sure.
But you are excited about your poetry
Both my chief and I want to be nice to you.
-Thanks! May I know and use your name in a poem please?
It’s CBP Officer Eric Sachs, but don’t get me into trouble.

Knowing my Canadian passport would expire within six days
I drove fast to hell of a heaven, and heaven of a hell
While it was still valid

Vancouver Wants to Show Its Best to the World

May 12, 2010  :: 0 comments

In front of Riley Community Centre
They have just replaced the old garbage bin
With a big plastic bag
Fresh, greenish, transparent
Kept open by a simple but strange structure
Full of bits of banana peels, brochures and bottles

The content is never new
But the idea is innovative:
Who would expect us to openly display
Our dirty, ugly, messy wastes
While we celebrate the opening
Of 21st Winter Olympic games?