First Ride Home

I was sixteen when the truck broke down 

and parked despondently inside a mountain.


It was early winter.

I felt I was tossed into a vortex when the truck stopped with a screeching sound.

The headlamp was still on, like desperate eyes looking hard into a shroud 

of darkness and confused.

No stars, absolutely no stars;

They had fallen into the gaping mouth of the mountain,

waiting to be fished out by the invisible hands of a late morning.

Terrifying silence came, seeping in through the windshield.

It forced into my lungs and grabbed my heart, the stench of the night air.

I gasped.


The driver was fidgety, trying to call someone, 

No signal, he said and discarded the thought of rescue.

He was grumbling something unclear while he killed the engine.

His words lacerated the night.


I took the sleeping bag he gave me and crawled in, knowing

home was still far, far away…

Or in a good dream.


At The Poetry Reading


We are in a cozy room where rows and rows 

of paintings, cards or books from forty years ago

stand out and vociferously remind us of the red years,

though at the corner a statue of Mao is quiet

as it has always been

inside this little gift shop, where poets gather tonight,

almost huddling together, like a thick pile of lumber 

eagerly waiting for sparks.

Outside, the rain comes, thudding on the windowpane.


We’ve stayed long in this world, long enough to see 

how the poetic spirit of old times 

passes down after generations to us, 

some in the form of ink, some in blood;

some preserved in archives, some burnt;

Some, like tonight, circulating an invisible vein

that brings us here, marked in the name of Muse.


So here, he who talks about Maryland understands

soaring ideals of human peace and its perfect

reflection in Himalayas; 

and she who writes the fate of working ladies in Dong’guan

into an ode smiles and nods to the the poem 

about a sick gentrification of Shanghai.

Poems read in Spanish rhyme with a Chinese verse,

and Ukrainian consonants sing with English vowels.

The lighthouse that shines over a boisterous sea

shines over us all tonight in this haven.


Outside, the rain keeps pouring.

The poetry that fills the room spills out to the damp street,

sweet as honey, killed by loud inquisitive eyes.

A Winter Prelude

The red-brick wall shines like a giant lamp post 

when the grey sky drops down, almost touching the earth.

The parasol trees seem to bend and break under 

such a weight; listless leaves hang like flags 

that announce a final defeat.


The sun shuts off its droning engine and looks away 

from thick leaden clouds.

Along the boulevard men walk in packs, looking,

almost huddling together, 

for the warmth of a man-made fire.


Winter comes too early, rubbing its nose

on the windowpane where frost begins to gather, eating its way

through the aluminum frame.

The door is shut tight , inside the quiet room

a thin chrysanthemum half-blossoms.


It’s not the end of a life circle, this seasonly change,

nor is it the beginning for the less fortunate.

Another breath of the wind comes to all either way,

only colder,

bringing another form of transformation,

if not with a rose, with a dagger.


But the silence that hovers above this city is louder 

than the talks of many smart men, 

who see the great enigma of life in the cafe 

where black espressos are brewing.


Ho fermo il core in petto.

Non ho timor: verrò!

(my heart beats firmly ,

I’m not afraid:I’ll come – Don Giovanni)


breathe in, breathe in ,

the dust, the smog, the sordid proof of being,

a dose of excitant in the air ,

a whiff of depressant that fumbles my hair ,

Is that how I am ? Is that how I smell?

Is that how I should proceed with my preparation

and advance to my beau de faire?


I see my black suit in its funereal solemnity

I see my bow tie batwinged to a silent mockery,

I do not think the old time remembers me ,

no, nobody sings ever more ,

as spring does not bring back the fall.


I, a sojourner in a strange town,

I, bound with forces that frosted my hair,

see the sun arise from my coffee mug

— each day!

but again, who would ever care ?


my sad reflection approaches in the mirror,

my sad determination voices the horror

the negation or sublimation,

from the man I should meet in one hour ?


I know these eyes too well.

yes I grow older now , each year ,

I speak wearing my heart sincere

on my frivolous lips;

I’ve seen life seeping away through my finger tips,

come ye my soothsayer ,

come and tell me

that the line of life continues somewhere.


It’s time to look at my watch and count

one two three, yes one two three,

should I reach out to the nonchalant door

and open to the falling agony ?


I could have bought a bunch of roses,

I could have talked to the petty peddler

I could have said with a friendly grin

certainly It will be a great year to come ,

to you , to me , to all who wander alone.

because I do not feel cold at all,

I feel the universe spiraling up above

with bits of decay and bits of reanimation

ready at last for the final transformation ?


In all, I am beside myself .

until I breathe myself out and away like

a diminished sound for an emaciated figure ,

will he notice ?will he take heed ?

will he be disturbed by the sweat down my hair ?


Ah, the clock urges me on urges me on ,

time to face my saviour in the throng.


-written 2016 revised 2018, to be published on the seventh issue of Shanghai Poetry Zine October 2018.