Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

Timothy Yu

Chinese Silence No. 16

after Billy Collins, "Japan"

Today I pass the time reciting
your favorite Chinese poem,
saying the silent words over and over.

It feels like jumping
up and down on little bound feet
again and again.

I walk through your house repeating it
and leave its silence falling
on your furniture like ash.

I stand next to your silent alarm system and say it.
I say it in front of your flat-screen TV showing Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon.
I tap out its rhythm with a pair of chopsticks.

I listen to myself saying it,
but of course I don't hear anything
inside my Chinese silence.

Issue 4 | Winter 2012

And when the squealing puppies look up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and think about dinner.

The poem is the one about the little
China girl
lying silent on the beach

feeling the excruciating
pressure of your body
all over her porcelain skin.

You like to imagine
her body is a temple bell
chiming under the weight of your eyes.

But when you look in the mirror
your head has taken on the shape of a bell,
your shoulders bending downward like a fortune cookie.

And when your tongue tries
to ring out a cry
for help against your cast-iron palate,