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Three Poems
Unter Uns

Who speaks
                    the word
                    that you hear?


the dark char
of burnt wood
against sun; I would

send you
what I have—
this token, it

is not

         but would you eat
the rice of the new king?

it goes straight
to the heart:

about the feel
of points

in your skin,
when you

the epistles

like tombs

like wishes
on a thistle-tree—

like bracken
hovering broken


                        sweet word
sweet words, be used
for thinking

         summer breeze

the dune’s
dry, dry
layer of sand
a cut you can’t feel

of grass
and the paper skin

I was waiting

in the garden: I see
                       a white umbrella

coming closer

who could recognize
light flower-dots—only at last


into, and among

this lingering rain



There’ll be killers in the grass tonight,

oh I know you’re here
like always
erasures make the draughts

now’s mirage Braque-built
display screen
sight lines seamlessly and three
of one
lens looking

         #         #         #

So collage then was a killer cutting
truth in two,
in two again

and after all
on most of us
we’ll divide one eye

or one race, what’s the difference to dystopia
with arms tonight,
or with femme hair, what’s
it measured up

         #         #         #

Not the built-up sky—dangling things
bragging streamers:

looking up at us, you
have-nots, at our riches

and pretend again
the text is you; no wonder you rebel
against those words

this weight
of the Latinate in your arms
when here only this dull rumor

and conquest of strength,
a parking lot
tired of translations.

Comb the beach again.

An engine running,
we exclaim our

and yet the unborn
become wet sunlit days—

these unrepentant people

that come in shocks
to the mind
like rocks and bits of stone.


Ceremonial Dialogue with the Feng Tripod

You bestow
          a black jacket with embroidered hem
          red kneepads

—these are the mines of hours
dipping tipping ever into enclaves
cascading from language
multiplied to hide repetitions,
the curt cup forms
eliding dialect.

Like a man who stands with his face to the wall what do you hear?

Here I am in my rock and cleft
here on the cushions here
on the floor. Inscription enacts
our thrones and our toes.
Words we are not tired to recite
even when there is no book-
burning we bury them
in the walls of the house.

You bestow
          a scarlet demi-circlet
          a chime pennant

—here is the gift of decoration
the wild articulate frenzy of things
given again to the page—given
first in bronze vessel’s curve
given to me.

You bestow
          a bridle with bit and cheek pieces

Here may we, sons of sons
grandsons of grandsons—appreciate.

Like a man who stands with his face to the wall what do you hear?

These are my bronze things
that I may serve

NOTE: Sections in italics are from the Feng tripod inscription (see The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature: To 1375, ed. Kang-i Sun Chang and Stephen Owen, p. 12) and Isaiah 38:2. 

Kate Monaghan lives in New York and Oaxaca. She holds a PhD in classical Chinese literature and her writing has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere.