By Karen An-hwei Lee
where a vacant red pergola stands
for our annulled decades –
no bitterness. No bliss. We go to a seaside metropolis
where we drank the glowing milk of pearls. Outdoors,
an impromptu by a Chinese mandolinist and sightreading
jazz pianist: doppelgängers
ghosting a minefield of opium angels
who witness your sips of osmanthus wine,
your kvass of mint, raisins, and berries
tossed in one sitting
until you lay in gold effervescence. I worried,
millennium, you’d die in an epidemic
though I’d virtually eradicated small pox,
tuberculosis, and rubella
over the last century.
Dear millennium of shimmering lights,
I didn’t grant you the liberty to roam
the gallows of roseate carnage
without releasing you –
our torrid maze of fire-ladders,
labyrinths of brass rage in factories,
operant conditioned responses
to beautiful objects. Or we are socialized
anything is beautiful. No. No.
Dear millennium, now I expect nothing.
After all, what can I glean
from a million caries in an incorrigible sweet tooth?
And why persist,
spinning in outer darkness without eyes? Do you see
tattered faces of violets? Do you
cry inwardly while flipping
silver-dollar scallion cakes, agile as glandular
mania in your pockets,
jack-knifed out of squalls, your narcissism? Are you
ever forced into polarities? Are you a whim
of chance, or a bruised planet of intelligent design,
in a phantasmagoria of liquidated assets
amassed by billionaires?
Say a volatile currency is worth saving in this famine –
a yuan’s cherry-coal banknote, of the day before yesterday’s
smoke-plumed petals of Shanghai,
Only confess: this lovely megacity is savage –
Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of the chapbook, Period of Warring States, published in 2017 by Another New Calligraphy Press. Her first chapbook, zombia, was published in 2014 by dancing girl press. She has read in the Bookworm Beijing International Literary Festival, and lives in Beijing.