Four poems

by Alvin Pang


A man; a woman:
clods of dirt on the sill of
time. How we spend sighs,

the coin of our pulse
pressed against pelt, sea. From this
shuttling, the sear

of vespers. Weeping
looms. Cardinal longing. What
are bodies? Unmapped

ground taken off-site.
I wanted you to touch me,
once. To find a path

through the dark garden.
To unseat the undergrowth
by gait or burning.

The vanity of what is not embodied

Appetent reach. Unctuous gnarl.
Wait turned winged and suspiring,
as the hilldogs croon mass to the
congregation of waylights. Dimmeting
askance. Smoked duskdew. Soon peaks
afar but almost there, there, enclouded,
to be chanced upon as lips find water
in the lap of thirst, fledged in prospect,
in breathpulse, the fruiting heart aglow
with hum, dub, sonor, climb. And then
glimpsed accord; our glances, geographic,
voicing decumbent and keen as a bird
one palaces not to cell but to shelter
the song. Later the whitewaves claim me
like dawn as you court light and fire,
timebeing become molten. Nascent.
                       Then the silence crowned. 
The world spun, and the laundry came.

Dinner at Olo, July 2022

Mackerel that travelled north instead of south so it’s buttery and creamy from the cold. No metallic taste. Live in its fullness without bitterness, a welcome. A grandmother’s embrace. 

Japanese calls. He takes off his top hat and kisses his lover in Turku. They bathe in moonlit rain. The hat falls in and he dives to retrieve it. She watches from the shore, fingering pearls with lemon scented fingers. Later they make love to the scent of passing horses. 

Oh my heart: my grandfather’s pipe, his bald pate, his white singlet stained with gravy from a dumpling bitten too early and too well. Sing buay and duck. The scent of tobacco in the grass of schoolyards. A life lived away from courtesy, in the mud/cake of labour. 

Fermentation and time. The strawberry’s virginal rind, a swan aswim in the bay. Licorice lipstick. Prospect of seed. Sun laving. Time smokes the sea breath into salt scalp. Time is love.

What’s found here. Children foraging for sorrel in the woods. It’s edible, the green stuff? The fresh savour of scraped knees, fierce care and a mother handing the errant child a chicken biscuit. There will be years later for regret but for now the day folds gently into oysterbeds and blankets. Dream into cruises/voyages/independence.

Tofu?! The arms of a second love? Desire in a summer bower by a shaded lake? There is nothing here, there can be nothing but cloud fever. This is not the scent of asparagus lingering after harvest in the brimming air. This is not the whisper of primaveral first farewells. These are not tears on the lip of a spoon held and held as if it would make forever possible.

Like getting drunk and making love in a forest where fire approaches and soon there may be sorrow and war but for now spark and fleck and char, the grease to the touch of mead and chanterelle upon which rests bare awakened skin. A symphony of yeses. A bonfire. Flesh as beauty, as swallow and hereness, sticky, savour incarnate, blood worth, yes we are dust but the earthed enoughness of ash.

The chrysanthemum Princess has come to test the flowers. She asks for a rose made of snow and milk. She rests a knowing cheek on the strawberry beds, tasting the exhalation of bees. There is tea for those who have forgotten winter.

Lavender and meadowsweet, the leavings of freshly poached carrot and rice lees on the edge of a perfumery. Stolen bortrytis in a shed, laughter and unshy laces. Who needs youth when the dew comes to the call of ripeness? Who needs spring and its promise of melt?

          For Dana Prescott
We sweep our leavings in a box, sift the dross,
find fit containers for what must come with us
into the imminent. It is time to put away glass
and tine, still the keys, shake the cocoon loose
of its spent hours, free from brush, from rag
each caked and careful tint. What traces we wish
to mark the world with, make them now. Then
fold the crease and fold the crease again. Pull
on clothes more suited to a different clime
of loneliness. Make the bed for someone else
to lie or love in as if a new and curious gift,
how we first arrived, unnamed, and were
held close. Like the rooms we return to,
readying ourselves for the day of final things.

Civitella Ranieri, 18 Sep 2022.

Author’s Bio:

Alvin Pang, PhD, is a Singaporean poet and editor whose writings have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide, including Swedish, Macedonian and Chinese. A 2022 Dublin Literary Award judge, Civitella Ranieri Fellow and Adjunct Professor of RMIT University, his recent books include Uninterrupted time (2019), Det som ger oss våra namn (2022), and Diaphanous (2023; with George Szirtes).

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