Two Poems

Marilyn Chin

Scary Poem (Inaugural Etude, 2017)

Beware the tyrant’s on the looseSwinging his scythe and scrotumBeware he enters your dreamsWith a facemask and speculumBeware he crawls on fours and sixesKeeps time with the ancient pendulumHe’s pissed as a newtHe chains you to his beliefsBeware he will make you disappearYour history will be rewrittenBeware, he sleeps in the same roomHis smell is oddly humanBeware, he’s a territorial beastHe’ll carve you into twelve provincesBeware, he flaunts his conquestsBeating his snare drum of fleshBeware he is texting your sisterWhilst spraying his toxic gyzymBeware he’s ten thousand years oldAnd will survive the nexus pogromsBeware he is the killer legacyNo muzzle nor museum can hold him

Chaos Had No Eyes

Chaos said, “O, Mei Ling, give me eyes so that I can admire yourbeauty.” So, Mei Ling punctured two wounds into his forehead. Andas he gazed longingly into her eyes, Chaos said, “O, beautiful one,I can’t smell your sweet scent.” So, Mei Ling cut two holes for hisnostrils. Chaos said, “O, melodious poet, give me two ears, so that Ican hear your fine poems.” Again, Mei Ling obliged. Chaos said, “Atlast, give me a sweet mouth, so that when we kiss my tongue couldinterlock with your tongue, deep into all eternity.” And so, Mei Lingcut for him a deep red mouth and kissed it. Chaos said, “I have lovedyou too much” and bled from his seven sockets into turbulent riversof blood, spilling over the dark continents, flooding the deforestedplains and pestilential cities, destroying the once abundant borderlands.Finally, Chaos marveled at his own gruesome handiwork andwould want for nothing.

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Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of four previous poetry collections and a novel. Her work has appeared in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, and Best American Poetry, among other publications. She is the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, five Pushcart Prizes, fellowships from the United States Artists Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, among other honors. Presently, she serves as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and lives in San Diego.

A rich, illuminating compilation of selected and new poems from Marilyn Chin, “a poet of contradictions, poignant sentiment, beat-your-ass toughness, and unexpected humor” (Los Angeles Review of Books).

Spanning thirty years of dazzling work—from luminous early love lyrics to often-anthologized Asian American identity anthems, from political and subversive hybrid forms to feminist manifestos—A Portrait of the Self as Nation is a selection from one of America’s most original and vital voices. Marilyn Chin’s passionate, polyphonic poetry travels freely from the personal to the mythic, from the political to the spiritual. Deeply engaged with the complexities of cultural assimilation, feminism, and the Asian American experience, she spins precise, beautiful metaphors as she illuminates hard-hitting truths.

A Portrait of the Self as Nation celebrates Chin’s innovative activist poetry: her fearless and often confrontational early collections, Dwarf Bamboo and The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty; the rebellious, vivid language of Rhapsody in Plain Yellow; and the erotic elegies of Hard Love Province. Also included are excerpts from Chin’s daring novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, and a vibrant chapter of new poems and translations.

In poems that are direct and passionately charged, Marilyn Chin raises her voice against systems of oppression even as her language shines with devastating power and beauty. Image after image, line by line, Chin’s masterfully reinvented quatrains, sonnets, allegories, and elegies are unforgettable.

Endorsements and Reviews

“These poems have a fearless life on every page, moving big themes into language, and pointing to past silences. But for all its sociable music, this poetry is also a serious and moving meditation on an inner life. Not simply the inner life of the poet but also—as the title suggests—the inner life of the nation that poet recognizes. This work is poised over both the public spaces where art and ethics are made, as well as the private reaches of a self where—as the poems show—an Asian American woman can weigh both identity and freedom. Marilyn Chin is a major voice. And this is a book to be treasured.”
—Eavan Boland

“Marilyn Chin’s poems excite and incite the imagination through their brilliant cultural interfacings, their theatre of anger, ‘fierce and tender,’ their compassion, and their high mockery of wit. Reading her, our sense of the possibilities of poetry is opened further, and we feel again what an active, powerful art it can be.”
—Adrienne Rich

“Marilyn Mei Ling Chin draws on ancient cultural sources and at the same time reflects something wholly Western, urban, and contemporary—so that we have here two kinds of sophistication combined, in proportions uniquely determined by her strong personal sensibility. The results are strong with an authentic and captivating strangeness, beauty and offbeat wit.”
—Denise Levertov

“I praise Marilyn Chin’s poetry!”
—Gwendolyn Brooks

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