Chinatown

B3_Chinese_New_YearBy night, Chinatown is a forlorn nexus of stumbling humanity.

Transient shades in motion, empty or full of pretense

all are made to wait under awnings

for the passing rain

that slants through street lamps

and beads the hanging wires

to become strings of light

tying together a kind of deranged continuity.

All streets lead back here for me,

caught in its vortex ,

Chinatown’s story a complex scent

of piss, jasmine and sandlewood insense.

Layered between 4 blocks in the deception of memory,

lest we forget the plague and the fire that swept through,

the dispossessed perched on rooftops

watching the blaze erase all they had accumulated

from field to storefront,

a shifting wind took everything.

Tongues of flame from the past relapse

in the shadowplay as neons go on and off again.

Illuminated windows arabesque what’s behind

a vision, a suggestion,

somewhere subterranean in the imagination,

plush chambers red and tassled,

host unseen scenarios in the candlelight.

There’s no moon to feed through pinched alleys,

so we’ll leave the darkness there to hold course

like a muddy river down the gutter

for the losers and winners in hidden gambling parlors.

The lion dancers come out on New Years

to bless thresholds and eat red qing envelopes,

stamping spirit in smoke,

chasing away any evil  Chinatown would invoke.

In a steaming kitchen after the drum beat dims,

gather in the cacophonous din of conversation.

If drunk on an internal dialogue, you can empty it

in the rattle of tea cups looking to be filled again.

Amidst these distractions, euphoria

in this gloriously chaotic quarter,

you can start all over.

Chinatown, a microcosm, degraded yet venerated,

full of deals, cheap thrills,

maneuvering through the streets again,

like a paper dragon

ushering in the next layer of its regeneration.

 

 

photo by Brent Wong

Gee Yung International Lion Dance Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Returning

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The moon, held suspended on a cloud

like a jewel in an outstretched palm

that clenched its fist

over a creative instrument

that prisms the light to beam through the sky.

From this vantage,

see the night thaw into a fleeting image

of my own willingness

to let the past be prologue

and memory become notes in a ship’s log

bound for East Point

painted on the horizon

like a raised birthmark over a darkened skin,

it’s set in its own isolation.

Through the El Greco sky of the mind,

unsteady in the swirl of shade and light,

poles teeter on the edge of each other ,

delicately dancing in the glow.

Where it beckons you’ll follow,

tracing lines to their inevitable ends,

leaving a progeny of words

strung against words

like a procession of lanterns

engulfed by waves

extinguished candles of breath

that craved oxygen,

building up only to give in to collapse.

All the thoughts and differing shades of meaning

shifting the gleam to tide pools cascading

from an overarching theme,

where everything is passing through.

For a moment the moon holds true,

weightless and suspended in a bubble of foam.

A perfect circle, timeless, eternal,

always returning home.

This Voice, Swallowed by the Sky

water ripplesThis voice, this half-formed entity,

a fractured alchemy

between what is let go

and the unknown it would follow

one voice, one horizon, not amplified

but swallowed by the sky.

Akin to water, it seeks fissures,

filling cracks where it empties rivers.

Where the wind meets the waves

there is no division.

Where precision meets what you change

there’s another revision.

The moon was the only light

in a sky of blindness,

there’s no direction given.

A lost cause to lingering questions,

this voice, a puncture point in the abyss,

swims in bliss, dreams it is borderless,

like a star trailing off and incoherent,

it is moving where you can no longer hear it.

This breath, tiny and drowned out

in auditorium vastness

in the ceilings of night

that capsize all ambition,

disappearing like coins

in the hands of the magician.

A disembodied voice rippling to the far shore,

another turn in Charon’s oar

reveals the gleaming obols

from the moon’s folklore.

Joining the masquerade of clouds,

this breath hung between lines

as if on a highwire

that is pulled across the sky

to soak up what is left of the light,

this voice that illuminates the night.

Leaving by Moonlight

b49cd646ea5aea4b9ba229ecfb3adb60Permeating the imaginary borders they were constructing

temples to the external

while the journey was inward

instructing shadows to move, immaterial

without the physical to complete the eternal.

The eye that watches us all is a stranded moon

pale and blood drained

like a weightless stone it remains suspended in water,

it never falters,

the light of its gaze

traces trembling fingers over scaly walls.

Through the darkness

perfect waves peel back broken glass,

lines like china, smooth in its collapse.

The clouds were disrobing crowds of mythical figures,

transforming to animals before our eyes.

The dragon, undeniable in its profile

against the night sky,

with one blink renders an uneven line

below on the lost coast.

Like a spotlight, it captures the waters receding

all the way back to Fastnet Beacon,

imbued with the spirit of lonesome immigrants

who would pass weeping in the smoke of lives left behind.

Shrouds silhouetted to the glow

while waves shaved glimmers to the shore

like a parting sentiment for a land they’ll see no more.

Sparks may loiter by driftwood fire

and pained strings weave fragile scratching

into the backdrop of pounding surf.

To the rocks that receive it for centuries,

the sea is one part dissolution,

one part creativity,

the place where rivers end emphatically

in the brackish beginnings of the next journey.

Imagination, A Point of Entry

5330788098_ee2d86e0e1horses approaching

1.

You know that feeling well,

when incomprehensible streets

greet your first steps

and a breath of woodsmoke and foreign leaves

awaken various states of disorientation.

Under the strange sheets of temporary homes,

getting off the road, a coffee’s respite

awaits those who roam through the element’s assault.

Arctic Terns and the road seems to go on and on,

each vista eclipsing the last gasp

from the sea to the snow capped peaks.

There is thought, there is action

and on a fog blurred ridge line

they become entwined

in a swirling yin and yang with the sky,

how each can obscure and direct the other.

2.

The imagination was a point of entry,

in Kjarval’s studio

where a tenuous reality meets fantasy,

the canvass becomes an extension of nature,

a weathered glimmer behind the mind’s eye,

a shifting moodscape of faces

in rock formations and lucent turf.

This sudden shift can unearth

from the inanimate a movement

that gazing inward

reveals and gives shape to.

3.

Folk tales lead us through Horgadalur,

where half wild horses are prone to majestic pauses

by the swollen rivers of lore.

The regal falls, the rush of water

through clefts in penetrable moors,

completes the jagged unity of rock and valley.

While we in our tiny vehicle

become merely a pebble

in the volcanic masonry

of landscape and now memory.

4.

At the inlet of Kista

the sea recedes back centuries

to reveal the unspeakable cruelty

done to those condemned for sorcery.

Driftwood fires leave black marks on the Strandir,

the impassible cliffs

where Basque ships

strand sailors to unforgiving coasts,

where power mad hosts wrote edicts

and pursue them like wolves,

leaving bodies bloodied on an isolated shore.

In the Westfjords, the pastoral eloquence of sheep

give way to a violence bubbling underneath.

In its history it is much of the same.

Fleeting is the light in a narrative

that is dark more often than not

but we never saw it this way,

catching Iceland’s capricious rays

in the sky, like a precious

sigh of relief,

knowing this time is brief,

this travel only temporal,

lives soon to be fractured again,

like the land beneath

that makes room for the new,

though it may assume physical separation,

it leaves us with an indelible impression,

pictures and letters to draw on

to complete a path back.

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These Wayward Notes Roamed

Paris-7742sPeering over the edge of the half opened drawer,

you’re afforded a glimpse

through the void

of a former life

whose mind structures and stacked spines

were wayward notes roaming

undefined decades ago

through the oldest quarters of Paris.

What was left unfinished, the letters like lamplight

on the avenues and the pinched parallels of Marais.

What do they say of mystery?

Of being buried alive?

One fist seizes the light

seeking breath to break free of binds,

experience in hindsight

relegated to a page in time,

to squeezing sentences of quintessences,

dissolving these contour lines.

Mystery,  in the wake of transport

what can it take of the forgotten?

That which is no longer mentioned of moments

overwhelming the air of another postponement.

The bell’s chorus wakes the wasted ideal,

an incarnation through atonement

beneath the shell of inaction

reverberation towards something whole.

Mystery, that melancholy departure

pressed into the fibre of indecipherable spaces,

twilighted in notebooks

that grid and translate the travel,

blurring the towns in-between.

Still it remains pliant,

rounding out reason’s edges.

Along the border of the Seign river

it is under a saintly finger

as it dabs the transparent clouds

shot through with light

and by dusk spewing blood.

Mystery is the host

holy enough to reveal no wounds

from the dogmatic wars,

it makes it through without scars

without cracks in wonder

it is a stained window in a cathedral,

a marble current in the Parisien sky.

There’s a subtle door in the repetition of poems

unlocking the divine,

a cadence recognized in dreams and visions

sinking softly into a receptive mind.

Mystery, pulled from the void like a rebirth,

sets a glow over the changes,

encouraging new curves in the regiment

of the sensitive imbued with luminous purpose,

to illustrate and turn further pages.

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Light Seeps through the Illusion

Shafts of Light 2

Through what I’d perceive in the sky’s mirror,

the sea was a ragged mariner

cast on the jagged rocks.

All the debris i would carry with me from the past,

the horizon could no longer forecast

or keep from floating away

from some logical ideal.

The line was a separation,

sea and sky

silky and undefined,

an impenetrable teardrop,

weightless,  impression of color

in a superstitious and darkened course.

With no compass it flows over the sides of the canvass,

like an art that is infinite in its reading,

it depends on the witness.

For all who need to wander and father words,

further imagination, the borders are reinforced

than blurred by travel.

The intuitively known is murdered in bloody sunsets,

red robed in the glow of twilight

thrown across the liquid’s edge,

like a veil from the eyes

the westernmost ledge is

illuminated.

From there it is one step

inward to perfect

or join the drowned by shipwreck.

All the blind and rudderless,

with their mangled craft lodged in the sand

like a sullen crop half buried

in the perennial mystery upon which we stand.

It is a precarious position

when a landscape of fear

offers no sanctuary from

being pulled into a perpetual wasteland.

Not many know the history

beneath a city.

Soiled reflections stare back

from clean facades of steel and glass,

vast monuments of shadow

creating the illusion

that no sweat and blood were shed

during development’s colossal intrusion.

There are moments you see it clearly

as a shaft of light whose

passage holds a thread of jewels,

a glittering sequin to the narrative

where the brightest of all, the moon

becomes a beacon in the darkest canopy

to see me through.