Three Poems

Eric Lui


The thorn of the rose I've been feeding
quickly spawns in reverse, puncturing its own

ingrown white bone
pricking and hurting a dead mud carp

Let what's said and swallowed choke the throat
hollow out a papaya, fill it with rusted screws

You've stuck your finger into my vein
The pain spreads to make a tender bed

An ancient saying rings in my left ear: Sleep tight,
dear. I wish everything were a backward-ticking

second hand, an entire lung
of broken wasp stings

I look at your wrinkles in fact
you know what I don't know

I stare at your naked body
embroidered with my bashful eyes

like mint leaves comforting us
our recumbent foreheads

A Kind of House Called Him

Bed made all ready for the morning / curtains opened sheets folded / sunlight gently intrudes / a world / of sanitarium white / not much worth remembering the night before / wanting to replace the flaking wallpaper / coffee gets bitter once it's cold / but then think there's no way / to replace / the white clouds that day / the air that day / that special distance of the dust of memory / then fall asleep

But shirts have to be neatly folded / things put away neatly in drawers / open your laptop and focus on work / pick up a pen to let the brain rest / watch words float without consciousness / a typhoon somewhere in the tropics / regardless of how windy it is / we have to accept / the wind and rain / the waves are too high / it'll be fine when it's all over / whose singing penetrates my body / tightening my belt / the body beneath my shirt decays / eyes too dry / no eye-drops in the room

Having a new tenant is impossible / the frail sheets can't hold another person / the windows aren't wide enough / the view doesn't leave an impression / there's no wine that warms the body / or tea to cure a hangover / no carpet for us to enjoy our time together / there's only a simple bed a simple dream / and mementos simply annotating the past / silently on display /waiting to be disposed / now proudly and meekly at once / standing right there / begging themselves to forgive themselves 

Taking the Spaceship Back

At 3 a.m. you're planning an adventure
you take a screwdrivers and gloves
and crawl through the running subway like a gecko
witness eyes noses ears falling off one after another
At 3 a.m. jumbled trees in the park are swaying
There are ants on a wooden bench, someone's eyes once closed
after years of lying here
there's a faint beating of the drum from afar
who is rattling the night?
At 3 a.m. the TV is on, a snowy screen of static
long asleep while waiting
dreaming that you'll come back in a spaceship
and land on the piano, making a wave of noise
a neighbor slams his door, waking you up
At 3 a.m. lights on the highway back away hastily
the pleasure of secretly leaning against a minibus window
until the bus makes a sudden turn and pitches you out
the city is seventy degrees inverted
a blur of smiling facing
it's a misunderstanding, dear, nothing happened
a young man collapsed in his own vomit
next to the public toilet, a scavenger coughs gently
At 3 a.m., exhausted, you take a sleeping pill
there are important meetings tomorrow
some birds chirp too soon
someone's alarm rings
but you're reluctant to get up for now the sheets are warm
At 3 a.m. there's a storm but you can't hear the thunder
a gray-white shoe is floating in the pond
trees are withering, the storm lifts a roof
and snaps the rope of a swing
you can see a spacecraft fully recharged and ready for take-off
the rain is rattling the window but you still don't want to get up
the noodles are ready but the cup's too full and spills
the highway's broken in two
you can see the minibus driving into the sea
no one's watching, hurry, tell the driver a secret
it's okay dear, it's not that easy
At 3 a.m. are you still waiting for someone in a restaurant?
you kneaded flour into fairy tale characters
but the rocking horse doesn't have eyes, and where are Cinderella's shoes?
some of them have lips too thick and laugh comically
they turn off their MP3 players and disconnect their ears
lock the mailbox the gate clangs shut
At 3 a.m. disentangle yourself from an embrace
a sweaty palm moves away from your body
going blind, darkness invades the room
you're breathing rapidly from an oxygen tank
it's too late, too late
At 3 a.m. guitar strings break
The answer to a tabloid brainteaser suddenly occurs to you
You remember that you were too blunt in a conversation this afternoon
Like the missing nail on a fence
Just as you decide to write an email to apologise, the power goes out
At 3 a.m. someone is standing in line at a convenience store to pay for a beer
is there a soccer game tonight? shake of the head
Celebrate the cactus blossoming on the rooftop
At 3 a.m. deep in the ocean you receive an international call
as if listening to an octopus talk in its sleep
you know the call sends warm wishes
overturned lifeboats next to the coral
the headlights of the minibus slowly fade
At 3 a.m. you're sitting with both legs crossed, with the little French you
you pretend to read a letter aloud to the frogs in the pond
a stray cat falls asleep in your lap
you secretly
say, you've been hiding
the fact that you took the spaceship back

translated from the Chinese by Nicholas Wong