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3 poems by Piera Chen

As I was leaving the office on a typhoon night,

I saw above the hedge of screens,

a beach at the height of summer.

Hours prior, clouds must have begun

to form which the storm must have

whipped into a bay that dusk peopled

with stars. And now there it hung,

glistening: sand, swell, revelers – a beach.

All of it coalescing while I,

in my LED-lit isolation, had imagined

toppled trains and airborne neons,

and whatever else a typhoon

summons, except this.

As I stood in the darkness, wondering

if I should leave, I thought

I heard beneath the shrilling

of the Signal 9 wind, the howl

of that humanity and the rumble

of their sea where there were now

stingrays in the wrinkled shallows,

stragglers that I presumed would soon

undulate their way back to the safety

of the depths where someone, a lifeguard

perhaps, had the foresight to moor

a white round floating dock

that would be my only light

in the empty parking lot.

Missing Person

For Wong Po-Wah

I don’t get their pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy,

you announced the day you showed me

Chai Wan cemetery and we sat on the parapet

to kiss and flash soles at our city’s dead

famous. I was curious what you thought

of Chinese classical music and that

was your reply. So simple and luminous

I couldn’t bring myself to say, 

but isn’t beauty an emotion too? 

It was enough that I knew what you meant

and the sky agreed. 

I watched you roll your smoke smiling 

as you tapped the tobacco into a ridge

like you were about to grow something. 

Then a cupped hand to shield the flame 

as you lowered your lips 

until your face was gone.

That day still catches me before

a poem or the windows of a bus

that had let me off too soon.

The last we met, a few summers ago,

our city was teetering but the rain

had let up for the evening and next

to our table by the side of the road,

someone had planted a fan,

the kind with huge humming blades

that’s used to make fall in films.

And all night the wind would skim the froth

off of our words and we would watch shadows

heave on the upbreath.

Or so I thought. Tell me, 

what of pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy were you feeling then?

Because the officer on the other end of the line wants to know.


My friends are over drinking

watermelon that I have slapped

for echoes and hacked into globes

now bobbing in a light Spanish white

with the bruised pears, rum and ice.

Outside the day roars

in the tongue of cicadas newly

disgorged by earth after

thirteen buried years.

Inflectionless existential rhyming

pours into the hallways, and pings

off the paint in the chambers

like those blinding

afterimages of a bright hillside.

Soon fingers formed into mudras

are disrobing the blanched prawns,

making offerings of oak-smoked

salmon roses to parted teeth

as forks fail increasingly to escort

arugula away from plates

and more calls trembling

close to privates, missed.

Imagine thirteen years for this

when towns rise in half that time

and every fourteen days,

a language goes extinct.

What lengths just to sing.

Here’s to waiting

somebody says, raising a flute,

Let it ring.

Let it ring.


Piera is an anglophone writer and translator from Hong Kong, currently based in Taiwan. She has a BA in literature from Pomona College and an MA from the University of Hong Kong. She has (co-)authored some 20 travel guides for Lonely Planet Publications and published a few poems in literary magazines.


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