Thursday, May 13, 2010

Urban Love Songs (after Tzu Yeh) - Wing Tek Lum

 Biographical information on Wing Tek Lum (1946 -  ) is limited.  He is from Hawaii, has degrees from Brown Univ. and Union Theological Seminary, works in the family's real estate business, and won literary prizes eighteen years apart.  The form of this poem is strikingly similar to the one I used in my first published poem.  (The anthology where I found this one was published in 1991 and my poem was written in 92-93 and published, if memory serves, in 94.Maybe it's something in the water....  Purely for "contrast and compare", I will make mine tomorrow's selection.  My brain tells me his poem is the superior: I feel no envy.    My heart says it does not matter: to share the source is a bonding sorrow.   The larghetto (2nd)  movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto # 27, to which I am listening, reminds me of that. 
Urban Love Songs (after Tzu Yeh)

You stop to watch the Mandarin ducks.
The rest of us continue on to the flamingo lagoon.
I would like to ask what attracts you to them.
But my feet keep walking, I don’t look back.

                      *   *   *
From a piece of cloth I cut out a heart.
In the Laundromat it is washed and dried.
I can spend whole hours watching it toss and tumble.
I wonder if you feel the same way as I.

                     *   *   *
I wave as you enter; you take your seat smiling.
This same coffee shop now feels crowded.
We whisper to each other:
all eyes have noticed something’s changed.
                     *   *   *
I’ve bought a new phone and an answering machine
because I know you will be calling.
Here’s the number, which only you will have.
I plan to change the tape every hour on the hour.

                     *   *   *
Our friends are laughing.
They say we sit so close in your old Buick
it has become second nature for me
to exit on the same side as you.

                     *   *   *
Pinocchio’s back!
Let’s relive that night at the drive in
when I whispered that his nose was giving me ideas
and you got into my pants for the first time.

                     *   *   *
You drop the laundry off going to work.
I bring the bag back when I come home.
Neatly folded, your underthings are left on the bed
- I wish to respect certain cabinets as yours.

                     *   *   *
You shut the window rushing to your covers
complaining of the cold night.
I need fresh air, but am willing to compromise.
Let’s just pull up the sash halfway, okay?

                     *   *   *
We hunt for photos in my parents’ storeroom.
Look how young I was and full of dreams.
On the way out you brush against a cobweb.
Your flailing arms make me afraid.

                     *   *   *
A firetruck screams through my heart.
Douse the flames! Douse the flames!
I awake to find my pillow soaked with sweat.
For a moment I thought it was my tears.

                     *   *   *
You’ve stacked your boxes neatly by the door.
I find atop one Chinese poems I had bought for us.
Quietly I take the book out.
I resolve to tell you this after you have moved.

                     *   *   *
For my clogged sink I called a plumber.
When my cat got ill I took her to the vet.
My heart is broken
- I will not ask you to come to mend me.

                     *   *   *
Last night you made me so mad.
I’ve resolved never ever to speak to you again.
I regret having to put my foot down so.
I’m sending you a telegram to let you know.

                     *   *   *
One friend I know cut her hair short.
Another shaved his beard without regrets.
I would walk this city naked and bald
if ever I thought I could be free of you.

                     *   *   *
After you, I took up jogging.
I wore through my running shoes in no time.
One night I chucked them down into the trash chute.
See how trim I am these days!

                     *   *   *
Once I bought a single chrysanthemum on a stem.
We watched it blossom, red and full.
Those times now bring a smile to me
finding its brown petals as I sweep the floor.

                                                                                          Wing Tek Lum - Chinese-American

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