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KEN CHEN
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Echo
Poem, Berkeley Poetry Review, 2001


“Such omissions of the subject allows the poet not to intrude his own personality upon the scene…”
—James J. Y. Liu, The Art of Chinese Poetry

I can tell the wind is risin’, leaves trembling on the tree,
trembling on the tree.

My father’s father holding still, holding still a traffic jam of coughs.
My father’s mother steaming chicken, boiling soy and air.
My mother’s father dangling years—a broken pocket watch.
My mother’s mother bearing a wedding dress.
My mother with such passion, sad beneath her silent face—frozen, a fashion ad.
My father pressed in black and white—a single paper lantern pasted in the air beside him.

I got to keep movin’, I’ve got to keep movin’
Blues fallin’ down like hail…

I close the album and my family members fold
against each other. Faces that would not kiss in life
press together as the pages close.

Yeah standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooo eeee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by

When pages have deserted books and hair from heads.
When pictures yet to be taken seem old and worn.
When my family now long gone resurrects itself, the ghosts
roaming through our dinner table—
The steam from the vermicelli broth rises up like an apparition.
My grandmother’s cooking. Our knives and forks
tick against our plates while we eat, unaware that we are achieving
ourselves.

We conjure our ghosts with these photographs in words.
I will cough my grandfather’s cough and my wife smiles her mother’s smiles.

 

All content, unless otherwise noted, (c) Ken Chen, 1998-2006. Ken Chen can be reached by email.

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