Category Archives: Issue 5: The Far East

Neo-Confucian Gentility: the Floral of Haiku

by Changming Yuan

Orchid: Deep in the valley

Alone on an obscure spot

You bloom none the less

Lotus: From foul decayed silt

You shoot clean against the sun

Never pollutable

Mum:  Hanging on and on

Even when wishes wither

You keep flowering

Plum:  Your brave bold blood dropped

As though to melt all world’s snow

Before spring gathers

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Five Elements: the Ancient Chinese theory Accounts for Us All

by Changming Yuan

1. Metal (born in a year ending in 0 or 1)

-helps water but hinders wood; helped by earth but hindered by fire

he used to be totally dull-colored

because he came from the earth’s inside

now he has become a super-conductor

for cold words, hot pictures and light itself

all being transmitted through his throat

2. Water (born in a year ending in 2 or 3)

-helps wood but hinders fire; helped by metal but hindered by earth

with her transparent tenderness

coded with colorless violence

she is always ready to support

or sink the powerful boat

sailing south

3. Wood (born in a year ending 4 or 5)

-helps fire but hinders earth; helped by water but hindered by metal

rings in rings have been opened or broken

like echoes that roll from home to home

each containing fragments of green

trying to tell their tales

from the forest’s depths

4. Fire (born in a year ending 6 or 7)

-helps earth but hinders metal; helped by wood but hindered by water

your soft power bursting from your ribcage

as enthusiastic as a phoenix is supposed to be

when you fly your lipless kisses

you reach out your hearts

until they are all broken

5. Earth (born in a year ending in 8 or 9)

-helps metal but hinders water; helped by fire but hindered by wood

i think not; therefore, I am not

what I am, but I have a color

the skin my heart wears inside out

tattooed intricately

with footprints of history

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Room of Four Learning

by Milla Van Der Have

Here I weighed what was lost. Measured it up against

these tiny fragments of time and wondered. What is

the latitude for loneliness and isn’t there a number for

everything under the heavens, not even for their son?

Here I recited things close to the heart. The quick-witted

fox, the morning star. Here I wondered about the simple

grievance of emperor and ox alike. Yet I wondered more

about my idle hands. It’s slipping away. I can tell.

The dragon dance. No more. Obtuse science, revolutionary

riddles of fortune? All gone. Not even an emperor can

exceed what has been laid out for him. There’s a chart

for everything  under the heavens, even for those cast out by them.

Here, when evening grew cool, I read the old folks’ tales. Now I

muster up Confucius as one does old courage. Dusty and worn, it

must suffice to stand against the everlasting vastness.

For in my garden  it still sings.  A lone magpie. Smalltime omen.

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To a Pear

by Brigit Truex

Whose song in blossom?

Each petal strikes a note.

Can you hear winds chime?

Turn your head, hear melodies,

faint bells, echo in each bloom.

Walk through temple sounds

that fill the white cloud orchard

while you trace your path.

Do birds carry prayers aloft

like incense rising?

Their hollow bones ring like gongs.

Rising moon, flushed as

ripe persimmons and as broad,

hushes nightingale,

his starry counterpoint trill.

Hung, star-lanterns quell all sound.

How is light and song

captured in fruit, then released

when it’s sliced open?

The moon is a silver blade

dissecting shape and shadow.

Swollen bud turned pear,

it tastes of music beneath

skin of ripe spring moon.

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One Small Slipper Found

by Brigit Truex

one small slipper found

fallen behind the dresser

strewn with peonies

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August

by Brigit Truex

You swallowed the sun.

The world convulsed, atoned

too late. Petals rained.

Transformed, these return:

concrete, cars, songs, bones, death

rain on us. Black rain.

Negative image.

How do you bury shadows,

the last remains?

Who marks this passage,

makes ink from rain to write these

indelible words?

Notes on the poems:

“August 6, 1945” – On the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, some decades later masses of

memorial flowers were dropped from airplanes over the city.

“What Remains” – In one of the few structures left intact after the bombing, a victim’s shadow remained actually seared onto a wall. It was cast there as a negative image from the intense radiation.

“From the Cloud” and “Calligraphy of Death” – Following the bomb’s explosion, incinerated matter was atomized. Due to the staggering atmospheric changes, the residue was sucked up into the sky, and returned to the destroyed city and surrounding countryside in the form of inky black rain.

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Open Curtain

by Jari Thymian

2:30 a.m.
bedside vigil
my father’s former self
asks for rhubarb pie
ala mode

my father and I
escape the hospital wing
car windows open
white pelicans
dive for fish

I spill
his glass of water
on the bedsheets
he sings to me
You are my sunshine

hospital dawn
while he sleeps
three young bucks
under apple blossoms
pink rain

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