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About this Poem 

“Just as [William] Blake saw the world in ‘a grain of sand,’ with oppositional force, I try to capture the world’s injustice in one temporal ‘Chinese American quatrain.’

The first piece is comprised of two classic call-and-response quatrains. The first voice offers an argument and the second voice counters it. In the second piece I employ what I call the ‘cruel juxtaposition’ strategy.  I juxtapose the history of oppression against women by using disturbing elliptical images of the dead mother’s body parts against a reference to Basho’s famous frog poem, which describes the perfect Zen distilled moment. Two heavy incongruous ideas happening on one tiny lotus pad. The third piece offers a cruel juxtaposition self-consciously contrasting an entitled American poet’s easy life against those of dying boys in a faraway war. And just in case the reader misses the message, I duplicate the quatrain for emphasis.”
—Marilyn Chin

from Two Inch Fables

Marilyn Chin

Yellow gold is meaningless
Learning is better than pearls
A woman without brilliance
Leaves nothing but dim children
You can hawk your gold if you’re hungry
Sell your mule when you’re desperate
What can you do with so many poems
Sprouting dead hairs in an empty coffin

Lotus: pink     dewlapped     pretty
Lotus: upturned palm of my dead mother
Lotus:  a foot       a broken arch
Lotus:  plop      and a silent     ripple
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur
I hum and stroll
And contemplate a poem
While young boys are dying
In West Darfur

Copyright © 2014 by Marilyn Chin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 24, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon.

by this poet


an essay on assimilation

I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of "be," without the uncertain i-n-g
of "becoming."  Of course,
the name had been changed
        A lament for Don (1958-2011)

Gaze     gaze      beyond the vermilion door

Leaf      leaf       tremble    fall

Stare blankly      at the the road's      interminable end

Reduplications     cold      cold     mountains

One child has brown eyes, one has blue
One slanted, another rounded
One so nearsighted he squints internal 
One had her extra epicanthic folds removed
One downcast, one couldn't be bothered
One roams the heavens for a perfect answer
One transfixed like a dead doe, a convex mirror
One shines double-edged like a