A Good ‘Hand’

This calligraphy is beyond me,
no life to these strokes,
each must require energy,
I am jaded in composure.

I think you know this of me,
hand shook when it traced
fingers across your skin
the first night we made it.

Every stroke should have a bone
is made of flesh and blood
and I was made of something,
receptive to touch, still brittle.

渴望但害怕. (1)

旦, sun rising over horizon
and I knew you better, hand
on your cheek, slow movements
for fear of ruining something.

I tried writing, scrawl on paper
could have said anything
you would have pretended to
understand, I resorted to

text messages, but characters
generated by technology are
dead on arrival. They used to write
on bronze or bone and would

that have changed anything at all?


(1) Foreplay was not much
was eager but scared.


In Writing

I was both bridge and chasm
code-switch to metaphor
for language burning the candle
at both ends of spectrum,
sentence deconstruction at the word


all sounds stilted like stock

phrases, e.g.

你们家有几口人? (2)
抱歉, 明天我很忙. (3)

I am not busy so much, am swimming
less, calling attention to myself
lost between past and present and
futile, I am an average teacher
both bridge and classroom chasm
repeating questions to blank
faces and I have practised the above
sentences but suspect I still
said them like I hadn’t done enough.




(1) Let’s go swimming, shall we?

(2) How many people are there in your family?

(3) I’m sorry, but I’ll be very busy tomorrow.


餐廳 restaurant
樓 floor
事業 career

I was a poor waiter,
no balance, impatient customers
made me dizzy like pinyin practise.

心 heart
信 letter
練習 exercise

Dear Grace, I never should have left,
could have got a job in a Waffle House
and made it work for a while, no sad poem.

客 guest
子 child
房間 room

I haven’t been home in two years,
they’ve turned my room into an office
but left the posters on the wall.

Can only revise the words until
often seems impossible
language encounters and realising
coded words beneath my skin

家 family
家 home
家 domesticated

and I should probably go home, or call.

Saturday Morning Translated

Pulling at a thread on your jumper,
waiting for everything to unravel,
as you are reading “Chinese For Foreigners,”
knowing me a little better.

You say: How do you say this?
I reply: Hai can bu dong.
Not right now.

If not now, then when?
Cross leg over leg and breathe warm,
lipstick on your nose and the thread
a little longer for my impatience.

You say: What about this one? (Attempt: badly.)
I reply: fangzi chezi haizi paozi qizi.
House, cars, children, money, wife.

Wuzu means the five happy things in life
and I am thinking that happiness is
intimacy, or mostly just your nails on my skin,
you find I turn on easy.

You say: Is this important?
I reply: Wǒ hěn kuài jiù yào bān dào zhōnng.
I am moving to China soon.

And let’s not talk about that now,
pretend the future is always foreign,
communicate this moment and pass the day slow
side by side outside of this language.

You say: This one looks kind of funky.
I reply: wo duzi e le.
My stomach is hungry.

Skip breakfast for smoking in the bathroom,
will skip lunch for watching a movie
may skip Chinese class to walk you home
and then pull the thread a little further.

You say: Just one more. (Point with painted nails.)
I reply: qing kaoyou yidianr.
Please move a little bit to the right.



In your alternate ending you return vengeful
with lasers burning from your alien eyes,
raging canine holy and your tail destroys
buildings when it swings happy, vilified.

You set Moscow alight and the blaze
is visible from space. They broadcast your name
like they did that day and quake in their suits
knowing they deserved this doomsday.

They feel the heat you felt at the end,
Laika let loose from cosmic confinement
with a mission statement of her own
and Estelle Taylor embraces death

like man’s best friend.

They Watched Her Go and Cheered

Laika in panic, Laika in the limelight,
plastered across the front pages
as a milestone for man’s ambition,
canine championed by the New Yorker
as she passed out from heat exhaustion.

Laikia in the shuttle, barking into
the boundless black with her tail
tight between her trembling legs,
the stars closer than they had been
to her Moscow backstreets, before it all.

The Mad Men sell her out to sell cigarettes,
fill their pockets with space race profits,
name a haircut after her, build a monument
fifty years after the fact, fifty years after
Estelle Taylor talks on the television about God.

Mercy, she says. You see what’s in a man’s soul
through the way in which he treats his Dog

nothing – and when Laika burns up as a
shooting star she watches her go and weeps.