More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Alvin Pang Alvin Pang

Other Things

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”— Amana Colony, Iowa, Sept 14.

To buy a potted plant is to admit both faithlessness and need. To water the plant, perhaps daily, perhaps once in a while when you remember and the leaves start to droop, is as close to love as it gets.

Other things mean other things.

To light a lamp is to hide darkness in the same closet as sleep, along with silence, desire, and yesterday's obsessions. To read a book is to marry two solitudes, the way a conversation erases and erects, words prepare for wordlessness, a cloud for its own absence, and snow undresses for spring.

The bedroom is where you left it, although the creases and humps on the sheets no longer share your outline and worldview. In that way, they are like the children you never had time for.

A cooking pot asks the difficult questions: what will burn and for how long and to what end.

TV comes from the devil who comes from god who comes and goes as he pleases. To hide the remote control in someone's house is clearly a sin, but to take the wrong umbrella home is merely human.

The phone is too white to be taunting you. The door you shut stays shut. The night is reason enough for tomorrow, whatever you believe.

Remember, the car keys will be there after the dance. Walls hold peace as much as distance. A kettle is not reason enough for tears.

The correct answer to a mirror is always, yes.

a poet is instructed by the death of his master

Know this:
what the world provides
you must give away in turn.
Forgive its loss.
When morning breaks
into the room
to tear you from sleep,
do not mourn
the night's passing.
Let waking divide
this day in which you walk
from the past
which already is less
than whisper, fainter
than a breath's caress.
Let the day begin
without prejudice, clean
of grief or gladness.
What lies before you is all
the potential you need.
All you will ever have.
With one stroke you end the cosmos
of a life. Gather your poems
from the carcass.
Remember you are dying.
That your absence is also poetry.
Make space with your words
so those who come after
may hear their own voices
in your silence, deepening.

(published in City of Rain, Ethos Books 2003)


According to the fengshui masters, flowers in bloom
facing east, bring health. A three-legged toad
by the front door, means luck. For you, not the toad.

To tap scholastic wit, stand in the magnetic centre
of the house, locate the south corner and move your desk
there, blindfolded. Avoid aquariums in the bedroom; they activate

loss, unless you introduce an even number of fish
to absorb your doom. If they die
you know they've done their work. Place a water dragon

in your garden, not to ward off strangers, but to fetch
hidden wealth. If you live in an apartment,
make do in the corridor. Let each family member eat

facing his or her most auspicious direction. Conversation
is optional. There is no formula for laughter.
This is serious business: do not expect miracles overnight;

wait at least seven times seven days. Be content with lack,
so the stars tell us. Or else stand there quietly, in moonlight,
facing west, for a change. Bring someone else an augury of fortune.