If we have brought a species to extinction let it flood and fill our minds with sound
Two poems by Paul Christiansen
Author: Paul Christiansen
Published on: 2/6/2017 4:18:59 PM

To the Poet Hàn Mặc Tử

Did you know they’d name a street after you? –
One that traces your city’s bony coastline
like a finger slid across a clavicle.

I’m walking down it tonight, staring at the same
stars you penned your manic poems beneath.

I’ve tried to find them in English,
but I’ve been told your style refuses translation
the way the moon can’t be scooped off the ocean’s surface,

as if the greatest act of translation is between tongues,
and not from feeling into language.

Apparently those poems,
written in the throes of sickness and isolation,
describe a desperate love, frantic sorrow.

Out here in the same solitary night that cloistered you,
separated from my own beloved, racked by my own illness,

I think I could understand your words if I heard them now,
translate them the way our sky translates
furious spheres of flaming gasses billions of miles away

into soft bulbs strung above the waves
like lights in an empty dancehall.




 

Alone at Hallandale Beach


Nursing great regrets,
I walk the beach, noticing women,
their persimmon-sweet lips, ambrosial skin
smooth like sunlight cast across a cedar floor.
Men’s laughter canters through the air,
and children thrill themselves with frivolities.
Loneliness rises in my chest
like an algae bloom
choking the ocean of oxygen.

It is important to remind myself
I am one in a nearly infinite
line of survivors, the newest fiber
of a rope stretching back through time –
an ape that dangered into the fruit-baubled branches
its peers were too afraid to climb,
a shrew who could best hear
the slither of a snake across ginkgo leaf,
sea-worm with the luckiest sperm plume.

If the soul is a tiny pearl
sealed inside a nacreous shell,
then what are beaches,
their sweep and swell of pulverized bodies?

Wind wicks heat off the city’s nape,
an oil tanker dawdles across the horizon,
and clouds diminuendo the sky.
Each breath I pull into my lungs contains
molecules that passed through the bodies of
Ghengis Kahn, Casanova and Basho.

But I am no great leader, lover or poet,
just a man watching the tide swoon towards me,
a single, anonymous wave
subsumed by the constant sea.

 

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