Lyric Up the Hills: Postcard Poems from Hong Kong

Before they took Hong Kong in the nineteenth century, the British described it as a “barren rock with hardly a house upon it.” Now it is a place of tremendous height and stone, worthy of Sisyphus’s fruitless toil. The colonial history says it all, for Hong Kong was colonized twice: first in 1842 as a possession bartered away by the British, . . .

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Two Goats

There was a story in the village of Bjni that went like this: When Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union, there were two types of people—Armenian A, who sold his Soviet state-subsidized goat, spent all his money, and had to beg for the rest of his life, . . .

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The Gay Horizon

The first twenty minutes in line outside the bathhouse sound like thunder. The Broncos have just played—maybe won—at Mile High Stadium, and if it weren’t for a block of four-story apartment buildings we ’d be looking down on the city from the Highlands. The fireworks would be eye-level. Instead, I watch the ambient backglow of a tv inside one of the apartments across the street. . . .

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The Voice of Sheila Chandra


When the sun goes down you move

horizontal you become everything

in the world at once rather than waking

like vertical where you obsess over

ascend or descend or whatever rain

at the edge of the building spit forth

by gargoyles does drown yourself in the jizz

of the world no shape of narrative

I’m lost but thrilled sun yellow still

inside my self I am a pocket for the other

day already gone Sheila hillbilly

iconoclast seizes the song in the cage

of her throat drawls not the edge of it

but its music entire  

  . . .

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Translating the Word for Home


A small city disappears in

the near-sighted dusk of a coastal winter.

Someone is walking home as I once did.

Someone is thinking as I did once

this is their neighborhood, their consolation.

Once I thought words could describe this. . . .

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Callie Barr’s Black Bottom


In memory of Callie Barr, known in historical record 

as caretaker of William Faulkner’s family



You may find her behind

          Rowan Oak, a shadow

               of fortress where then now

          you find no real entry place. . . .

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The Name Means Thunder

I am no longer blind, but there was a time many years ago when I lost my vision. Next week I’ll see the eye doctor for my cataracts, and he’ll ask if my eyes were ever damaged. I don’t know how these things work, but should I go in for surgery—should it come to that—I feel that withholding any medical information, . . .

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My Father, the Atomic Bomb

I would not be who I am today were it not for the Bomb. 

Had there not been a bomb, my biological father—a Manhattan Project physicist—would not have died in 1951 from radiation-induced cancer a month before my fourth birthday, and I would not have grown up fatherless.  . . .

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