Poetry / December 2014 (Issue 26)

Two Poems

by Zhang Jieqiang


To be a slight thing
is no slight thing:

the letter I is also a word,
so little, so lithe, almost

invisible, and is prime integer,
natural number capitalising

on its ability to plant its
indivisible self everywhere,

its seed being found also in silence,
multiplying amidst all kinds of nihilism—

easily missed, it does not so easily yield
to floccinaucinihilipilification—

and is dotting its way here even
now, already ubiquitous.


In the house of poetry, there are
many rooms. If it were not so,
we would not have been told.

"Stanza," from the Italian, "standing
place" or "resting place." So Donne, in his
sonnets, wants to build pretty rooms.

These rooms are built on verses,
from versus, in Latin, a turning,
as of the plough, making a line

of furrow in the ground. In the ground
of each room, lines of turnings—
toward what, against what, into what, from what?

As Midas turns whatever he touches
to gold, apprehending the perishable
with the permanence of his gift, or curse?

As Medusa beholds her beholders, turning
their stony, reptilian gaze at her
into wide-eyed amazement?

As Hadrian turns the one Antinoùˆs into stone
figures, flooding the empire with images of his beloved
to wall up the roiling surges of his desire, his grief?

As Dido turns away from Aeneas,
unmoving and unspeaking as flint,
fiery eyes transfixing stony ground?

As Lot's wife turns around for a last look
at their beloved home, turning into a pillar
of fiery longing, standing desire like a thirst for salt?

As Penelope turns and unturns the loom, longing
to weave a way to turn back time, or else, to turn it forward,
to a day Odysseus would Ithaka a home make?

As Persephone turns into Hades' ravishing queen, and,
having tasted seeds even her mother cannot grow,
returns from, and to, the Underworld?

As Orpheus turns around to see
Eurydice would not shadow him
any longer, herself already turning back?

As Yeats' falcon turns and turns in the gyre
away from the falconer, whose widening
call is lo(o)sing its centring conviction?

As Rilke turns and turns around God, that
ancient distant tower, towering like a falcon
or, by turns, a storm or a great song?

As God turns Jacob into Israel, planting
the thorn of new name in his thigh, blessing him
with the prevailing limp of destiny?

Standing in the house of poetry, resting in its
many rooms, we are ploughed by its lines, turning us—
toward what, against what, into what, from what?
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.