In the dribble of mornings wrapped about
The homeless in doorways like a pastrami sandwich
Ordered by mistake, while the scent of cheap bath oils
And colognes parade by on the pretense of work.
So these men are buried if they fail to retreat to alleys.
Their epitaphs may be read as follows:
“He smoked over 38,000 cigarettes,” as there is
Nothing like a slow slaughter that lines our cocaine streets.
I achieve bowl-bottom existence in my tenement where time
Is measured by eight cuts of the fish head
In Cantonese, Toishanese, and Mandarin as the wash
Flies multi-colored on the fire escape like United Nations
Flags and where I intersect my fantasies with the many points
Of a slow existence, while the manager’s daughter sort
Poker chips, as Buddha would sort souls…
Because your present life is coke and planning,
You can blame it on the previous generation of a previous life
As I wonder about the last remnant of opium as we all do in order
To suppress our sex like nuns and monks
And so in our frustration, we retreat to the top of the dresser
Where a bottle of pills are waiting with a glass of water for doom.
I did come to watch the sea
I did come to fish. I stood for hours in the surf but I was not minding the line – my one connection with the ocean. I had done the preparatory work of digging up sand shrimps and impaling their bright orange bodies to the hook and tossing the line with sinker out twenty feet. Sometimes I pull in a perch, occasionally a sea bass or a flounder. But I am sad this day. As for the beach I remember was in a mist.
The townhouses paraded by one by one as I drove through Ocean Shores. The crabgrass unruly and thrusting strong out of the white sand dunes. In the summer tourists come to support this town, but today the weather is all wrong. I am the solitary figure at the surf – the only person within miles watching the sea.
Someone must watch the sea.
The Proprietress of Love
“Something there is making my heart empty.”
She is fond of divulging.
My Uncle pens firmly from China, “Ai mo nung tsor (love to but unable to help).” As Lorca in his somnambular ballad, “Mocito, si yo puedo, este
trato estaba cerraba, per yo no soy yo, y ni mi casa es ya mi casa (If I am able, young man, this bargain would be closed, but I am no longer I and neither is my house my house).”
The cracks in the sidewalk are not a match for this day of thunder in the sky, the sixth day of the storm season, and the wind forebodes downed power lines, like the pain of jilted love.
She is fond of giving me her hand, when no customers are in the store and says, “Look how fast my hands are aging!” I cast a lazy glance toward the videos of love, and say, I can, I can manage you. And as she smiles, a customer walks in.
I return often when either she or I need a boost from each other.
Somewhere hidden in the city Mr. Five Willows is staring at the computer screen, with a glass of wine within reach, and as he pours from the bottle to refill the glass, a sudden downpour of rain outside.
It is too early to trust the weather.
At the barbecue shop a man purchases a roast duck, cleaved and boxed by “the chop-chop man,” who laments he is not an old “wah queue (long-time immigrant).” His cleaver swings up and chops down all day long, and no, this is not a persistent mirage.
Someone is eating with oily lips tonight. Someone who is already fat.
One of the places I have spent time orienting myself...
Locate yourself inside a seaport city
Locate yourself inside the inner city
Locate yourself inside a small square
Locate yourself inside you
this is you
You are the dragon on the wall
You are the railroad when America was young
You are the immigrant hands that lay the tracks
you are here
it is you
This is a place where you come to
This is a place within you
You were here when the sky was born
you are here
you are you
America I have no other place to go now
But to go within myself and find all that is still new
This is too a place for you as well as for me
you and I are both here
we are here
Of all the places where I have spent my time
Of all the places that have bruised my heart
America you are deep within my heart now
The pain was enormous
yes, it was you
Now don't tell me now to go back
Back to Wales or to Bavaria
America I am now a Native as any Native can be
to have withstood the pain
and yet still be free...
Koon Woon is the author of two award-winning books of poems from Kaya Press: The Truth in Rented Rooms, winner of the Pen Oakland Award and a finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America; and Water Chasing Water, a winner of the American Book Award. Recently Koon has self-published a memoir with his own Goldfish Press titled Paper-son Poet with a grant from the City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture.
Koon has been in the Seattle poetry scene since 1985 with his appearance on the Bumbershoot literary stage after taking poetry workshops from Nelson Bentley. He edited the print journal Chrysanthemum from 1990 until 2006 and currently hosts the online journal Five Willows Literary Review. He is the editor and publisher of Goldfish Press since 2003 and has published over a dozen titles of all genres of work from local and national poets/writers/playwrights.
Koon's poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 3 times and two of his poems have been nominated as the best of the Internet.. He has appeared in dozens of journals, print and online, and have been internationally-anthologized as well as nationally-anthologized and most recently in Quixotica, an anthology celebrating the life and work of Miguel Cervantes, published in Hong Kong