Friday, May 14, 2010

Paris - My Troy - Harrison Tao

 It had never been my intention to have any of my own poems here for a simple reason: no reader should think that I considered anything of mine as good as any of the ones I would select.  I've broken that rule a couple of times already, mainly from being lazy while trying to keep to my self-imposed rule of one-posting-a-day.  

I am breaking it again, but for a good reason: to illustrate the comments about yesterday's poem by Wing Tek Lum.  The two poems (his and mine) follow the same idea: short snapshots along a relationship time-line.  Once you read both, you will see why his is the superior.  (Seeing that difference is important IF you care about knowing what makes one poem "better" than another.)  As for emotional "effectiveness", reading this poem is picking at my scar: reading his poem is picking at his scar.... Even now,  at this distance in Time, reading mine is difficult as it reanimates a "me" and a state of feeling that is now a bittersweet memory.  This was my first published poem (1995).
Paris  –  my Troy
                                 for Helen

Lunch at Odeon, all a blur,
but not you ascending the stairs as if on air,
smile rounding to the balcony table:
afterwards so absorbed
my gouramis unfed for days.


On a bench at the Air and Space,
Brancusi’s Kiss for a template,
my skin singing from your embrace,
the watchers in the IMAX crowd
edging closer to thaw themselves.


Marie’s “Zee rroom is not rrehdee!”
casting us out to wander
those early hours in Paris,
but it led to that first café,
bread, cheese, and a walk on a quai.

January dusk on the Petit Pont,
gloveless hands cradling the Nikon,
my breath condensing on cold metal,
Notre Dame and you on the film inside:
the one serene, the other…hair redder than the sky.

The fish restaurant and that Gauloise
close enough to ashen your face:
we swore to be ready next time and bought
cheap cigars at a tabac shop,
talisman and revenge against foul Gauls.

Night and the Champs Elysee,
café sitters watching our play:
you asking me not to ask you
to marry me, and I not listening,
on one knee the next day at the d’Orsay.


Last week, your moss-green coat
with folds in back like angels’ wings
strobed past on another woman:
my mid-speech words crickets
suddenly silenced,
even by a counterfeit.

Your slightest displacement of the air
shatters my peace one, ten, any thousand li away:
the least alteration in your heartbeat
resonates through all matter to vex mine.
You said: “I love you” first.
                                                                                           Harrison Tao - Chinese-American

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