Wild Onions

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field...I'll meet you there.         

                                    --Rumi1

 

Greeting the sun, we touch the screens
on our phones to locate our bodies,
check pockets for don't-leave-home-without-it devices,
eyes enthralled by machines that conjure faces, other places,

others' homes.

In the twittering, 24-7 texting,
networked clouds of virtual connection,
where do we hit pause?
When do we ask…

Who may suffer for our pleasure?
Who sweats black tears to craft
our treasures? Whose lives are made
more beautiful by technological wonders?

 Out beyond the zeros and ones,
there is a real

field. Meet me there, and we will fill
our pockets with acorns and rocks
and stories, listen to night critters and ache
for the fragrance of wild ginger and
onion flowers.⁠

1 This quote from a Rumi poem was cited in the book, McKenzie, Marcia et al., eds. Fields of Green: Restorying Culture, Environment, and Education. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009. Print.
2 This line is for Alexy Lanza.

Of Love

Tomorrow

We should walk in the rain,
he says. Birds sound sweeter
and cedar smells more pungent.
Soft drips fill the spaces
of our slowly spoken thoughts.
We name ferns—deer and sword,
licorice and lady.
My belly wells up with regret
for pulling up the roots he set down
in these old forests.
Tomorrow a plane whisks my body
into the other life,
where he never felt at home.
I never did either.
My “place”, the one his brother
calls home every other week, is where
we know which corner cabinet
stashes the good chocolate, which window
best to catch the sun-flower stealing squirrels.
Home remains hidden, behind a fog
of unrealized dreams and mistaken loves.
Tomorrow I'll make shelter for your dreams,
my two boys. I will make up for lost
time, and together we will learn
to say “rain” in many tongues,
in renga, scat or in my
mother's tongue.

 

13

13 is a lucky number
in my book--
a happy number, by mathematical
accounts. The sum of the square of its digits|
leads to the number one.
13 is 8th in the Fibonacci sequence,
and 8 is the luckiest number--
at least by your grandma’s Taiwanese accounting.

You taught me about 13 in U.S. history--
The Amendment that outlawed slavery,
equal to the number of English colonies.
Do you see justice in that equivalence?

At the age of 13.77 billion years,
the universe might be feeling
the in-betweenness
you do, leaving 12,
beginning your first teen years.
In the quiet after cake and prizes,
I’ll hold you, as I have all these
13 years of gratitude;
you are my gift, my love,
my happy
One.

Traveling Between Languages

by CHEN LI

For the past few decades, the Chinese language used by the people in Taiwan has been in many ways different from that used by the people in mainland China. The differences lie not only in expressions, accents, pronunciations, and characters but also in linguistic “temperament.” In my opinion, the Chinese language used in Taiwan has some sort of vitality different from that used in mainland China. For one thing, whereas mainland China tried to wipe out its traditions, started the Great Cultural Revolution, and implemented a simplified form of Chinese characters, Taiwan, under the rule of the Kuomintang after WWII, advocated the “Movement of Reviving Chinese Culture,” continued to use the traditional complex form of characters, and put Chinese classical literature and history on the examination list. The result of the different policies is that people or writers in Taiwan are likely to have a more profound understanding and a subtler perception of “the beauty of Chinese” than people or writers in mainland China. Also, being an island, Taiwan enjoys more liberal and freer living environments, which enables people to assimilate diverse elements to form a more flexible, energetic, hybridized, and colorful language.

Click here for the full PDF article by Chen Li

Storm Poems

Rare Occasion
for Irene

rare occasion-- to do dishes by candelight
to write letters by hand
calculate how much ice

     needed for how much food
what to give up, throw out
let go

rare occasion to notice
how often I flick on
the light, open the fridge
to notice who I call for help
feel gratitude for good neighbors

rare occasion to notice neighbors
workers, ignoring rain
clearing storm drains, fixing
posts, connecting lines

this loving labor
so often overlooked.
let’s notice when rare occasions

become not so rare

short, distinctive names
now foretell cyclonic disturbance
instead of good nights of Irene,
Katrina and the Waves,
Rita love goddess...

not so rare occasion, to bless
the survivors, to hope
we hear the call to turn
the tides.

--August 2011

 

SANDY

Sandy* was the kid who ate paste
in second grade. And Donna* was
my best high school friend
who had a canopy bed and
learned me the ways of a middle class,
Midwestern, Neil Diamond-adoring teen.
Sandy was the innocent ignorance of teen years. 

Sandy is the color of corn
we grow to feed the endless thirst for fuel,
the texture of the room where I listen
and learn new names--
Emiliania huxleyi*, who caused a
coccolithaphore* bloom in 1997,

and blooms every year since.
Arctic Oscillation, often confused
with the North Atlantic Oscillation--
no difference really, in how their troughs

force the jet stream further north or
whether they make more snow for us
to shovel in Rhode Island this winter.

Poets wail, if only Dr. Scientist could
hear the pause
between the music of the spheres and that silence
left by collapsing
bee hives, a sixth mass
extinction underway. Scientists muse
if only the poet would look at the calcite
armor of Emiliania huxleyi, the vast
accumulations of calcareous oozes
and chalks at the bottom of the sea,
the sheddings that made Dover’s cliffs white

If only we could hear what the other
hears, know what the other knows,
we might leave that liquid sun alone
to stew another ten thousands years in the sands,
and Sandy might have a chance to
be your granddaughter’s name.

October 31, 2012

* Hurricane Sandy , (November 2012) may not have been caused by climate change, but climate change intensifies the degree of these “frankenstorms.”
* Hurricane Donna (September 1960) is the only hurricane of record to produce hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states, and New England.
* Emiliania Huxleyi (E-hux) is a microscopically tiny, photosynthesizing phytoplankton, one of 5000 that live in the upper layer of the ocean. Phytoplankton are one of the primary forces that regulate our planetary climate. E-hux is the most abundant of coccolithophores, phytoplankton that armour themselves with calcium carbonate platelets (coccoliths). Climate change is causing ocean to acidify, which has negatively impacted the ability of E-hux to produce their beautiful platelets. Recent research is hopeful, though, demonstrating the ability of E-hux to adapt to the changing ph of the ocean.

For Family in Yolanda's Wake
A mind might lag
behind, in the time
between gaze and yawn,
before the eye catches
the drizzling rain turning to white
flakes, falling sideways with
yellow maple leaves, swirling, looking for
where they belong. Where do we--
the nomadic, the itinerant,
the wandering dispossessed—belong?
Not here in this sliver of hill
between voluminous mansions and
falling down triple-deckers.

A body might turn
slack in mounds of cushions,
in the yawn between eyes and screen,
reflections of screens broadcasting torrents,
waves that churn up thousands of sleeping
bodies, children and brothers and mothers and
dogs, far from the wide Sargasso Sea. Between
the islands where you and I were born, warm
currents swirl in a different sea,
earth plates collide, typhoons brew, while scowling
tycoons count dollars, eyelids squint at the fine
print. Who can read the signs? Who remembers
rhymes foretelling this day?
Not us silver-haired workers, schemers,
soldiers, slick ones oiling
the well-oiled machine.

Who among us will open
her chapped lips and cry-- “Not here, not us”? We
will not turn away or grow slack in the eye
of the storm; we hold a place for you.