Poems by Chen Kehua (1961-)

hypnosis at high noon  I  Specimens of Immorality  Walking  the 50 lovers that live in my body  On TV after Dinner  on the farce of my life  Gazing into the Distance One Autumn Day  A Dream of One Fine Day 

hypnosis at high noon

I'm alive
I am part of the human race, and
I am myself (to the point of obsession) –
like a glimpse in the mirror
I am a blueprint passed on in secret
a spell of fate locked inside the strongbox of the soul

but I can never find the combination to open it
(you are getting sleepy)
and so I wake up
at the high noon of consciousness

lighting up the ignorance and vulnerability
     of the entire universe
the hunger and desire suddenly formed in this instant

I actively replicate DNA just to water down
     my terror of dying
class-character and domination are obvious
     without study
I examine the folds in a gorilla's cerebrum
to gain control of the dreams of all primates
while suspecting that I too am under examination –

(you are getting sleepy)

and so I wake up
in the most solitary depths of consciousness
doing repeated research into the directives
     of hypnotism and anti-hypnotism
: "And so you gave your wholesale acceptance
     to this clearcut and yet bizarre existence

including the jolts and the ambiguities it contains . . ."
I live in the human way
and can do no better than to believe in it
with unshakeable conviction

(you are getting sleepy)

and so I wake up
at dawn on the outermost border of consciousness
not knowing which way to turn amidst illusions
     and chimaeras
everything flows into the raging flood of the dim awareness
     of the universe
including the nothingness carried by clouds . . .

and so I fall asleep dreaming of reality
reality: the hypnotist’s highest directive

and in the same way noon sunlight evaporates
     every single shadow
heat steams off my brain
dreamscapes subside – no one was asleep
and no one woke

after all



me, I borrowed his body
and that segment of the flow of time

my coming into this world was like
     a surrealist painting
and from that moment – awesome –
     there was grief/joy

desire, and ambition – these I understand
although I’m only borrowing

but suddenly     I clean forgot     the full story
including the fact that I too was originally
     once a universe

and because of this, I have
elaborated games

with that being and the whole of this
     egg-shaped life
turning day and night into one another’s

when I wake in another dream
I find that I’ve

unwittingly inscribed a poem
entitled “I”


Specimens of Immorality

     ii. carnal crossword

you write me down in the squares just above centre
this is a concrete reflection of the geometric position
     I occupy in your heart
at the same time you think about various other bodies
and how to join me up with them

1 across:
the gender ratio of absolute masculinity (or femininity)
     in the spirit world
2 across:
the first question that needs to be addressed
     in the reformation of morality
3 across:
the entropy of pleasure
4 across:
the metaphysical meanings of the soul
     corresponding to various parts of the body
5 across:
the reason why a certain position makes you
     feel like throwing up
6 across:

1 down:
the son born to an idiot-girl raped by her
2 down:
familiar term for an angel’s genitalia
3 down:
a womb capable of ambulation
4 down:
a synonym for “death” used in physics
5 down:
the blank necessary to your entire life
6 down:
is the corporeal body the first and last faith



once we moved in an age of ideas and signs
debate’s lexicon gouging at truth

we then entered a world of instruments and logic
trudging through wastes beyond hypotheses
     and equations

before soaring into a universe of introspection and dream
unfocussed consciousness like the 3000 layers of an onion
     of worlds-within-worlds

these days, we walk in an age of replication and chatter
this limited life forging away specially for the sake of futility

new dilemmas hatch from outdated language
as fertile as ant nests

“love is universal but we are universally unable to love”
light goes in straight lines but it also curves

time is delusion, space illusion
no birth no death no filth no purity no increase no decline

must we go on walking whereverwards or will
wherever come walking towards us next?

the 50 lovers that live in my body

the 50 lovers that live inside my body
go out nightly in search of another 50 lovers

just like 50 windows
each one concealed behind 50 pairs of eyes

50 different outcomes
each representing owners of 50 different colours

50 love-letters carried by 50 pigeons
permutated in the plazas of 50 modern city buildings

the wind disappears from my 50 dreams
leaving 50 nights, while my 50 passions
are asking:

why can there only be 50?


On TV after Dinner

on TV I watch a young father who
has taken out a mortgage on a house on a slope on some distant hills
mornings he wakes up smiling on lightly ruffled sheets, a dream of serenity
satisfaction in his eyes

I watch him exercising in the sunlight on that gently rippling lawn
his shoulder muscles supple, untensed; his breathing relaxed
he has just the right amount of epidermal fat on him. Welcome,
he says. Come
and join us
his invitation is sincere
he flashes a set of sparkling white teeth

I watch another young father drive off in his car to
another far-off hillside
he has a very Chinese face, a very Taiwanese accent
a very Japanese work ethic
and very American consumer habits
he says: Let me give you a word of good advice
This is the perfect choice for you –
although there aren’t any houses on the hillside yet

on TV I see the smiling wife he has chosen
and his altogether too beautiful son
the three of them sit down to
the recommended daily allowance of calories and balanced electrolytes:
I’ll let you in on a little secret
the secret of true love
I lean forward in my seat
he tells me to wash with a certain brand of soap
and to use a new improved toilet paper
now on special

on TV I see a young father who looks a little like me
his hair is trimmed neatly at the back
he radiates confidence
Your shirt is a little creased, he warns me, and the style is out of fashion
You’re a little hunched over, and your mood is negative.
There are flecks of white in your hair, and you have quite a bit of dandruff. on TV
I see
the me I should be, a lover of tidiness
smiling happily and standing in front of a house
I own

You don’t still believe in those old ideals, do you? the man on TV asks me
in the forest of trees on the safety island
an occasional thin mercury streetlight shines
few cars travel the purplish asphalt road:
City, city. Soon you’ll have spread all the way up here . . .
he puffs on his cigarette nervously, a worried look in his eyes
unable to see the distance

on TV after dinner I see
(and finally remember) what the hillside used to look like
the long silvergrass and the patches of cinquefoil
in which a skinny brown kid from the neighbourhood used to hide
leading his buffalo this way
he said: Poverty killed off many of the finer qualities I once had. . . .

yet prosperity has added such glorious miseries
on the TV, I am convinced at this moment
that he has found true happiness –
this citizen of a subtropical island
who is also keen on physical fitness, public welfare, and culture
I feel a deep loathing and admiration for him
like I would for a brother who had grabbed all the family advantages for himself

on the TV after dinner
from block after block of towering high-rise downtown apartments
a succession of young fathers hurries off to dispose
of the day’s accumulated information and emotion
before tonight’s garbage collection
inviolable, this city rhythm – Good evening.
Would you like to own your own home too?
inviolate, this adult destiny. every night
before the garbage trucks show up, all the young fathers rush out

to dispose of themselves


on the farce of my life

the life so studiously acted out
by every individual proves
eventually to be a farce

in this farce, tears
are bona fide eye-drops
shed for a self that doesn't exist

in dreams we watch the hidden stage
of a studious planet
waiting for the entrance of meaning

but the plot gives no clues
symbols and sublimation
the farce taking time such a limited span of time . . .

"as for me . . ."
everyone leaving their seats
is as baffled as when they came in . . .


Gazing into the Distance One Autumn Day

my imaginary lover has already left in a hurry
windows stand open like eyelashes in this
     autumn room
an overbearing man suns his body
     out on the balcony
rippled repeatedly by a lukewarm breeze

like a plaza of crowding trees
that autocrat, King Desire
has prepared a magnificent celebration
     for Himself

the vast silences infect one another
and in the midst of all this he sees, far off
     in the distance,
the first tree set itself on fire . . .


A Dream of One Fine Day

a day eclipsed by cloud
several times you struggle out of bed
to check the thermometer held hostage
     out on the balcony
before sleeping your way back into dream’s nest

reality turns into an enormous bird and flaps away
leaving consciousness behind
a solitary consciousness
absorbed in the one-man show you act and direct
     on your pillow

while at the same time, you are your audience
amazed at the life you rearrange and reorganize
saying: I alone am still myself . . .

yes, and when you stand at last out on your
the cold of the whole North Pole attacks your gut
and you are like a probe measuring loneliness
planted askew in this shivering planet

but still you insist on possessing intact a fine
     winter’s day
although this
is, in fact, nothing more than the hatching
     of your first winter’s dream . . .


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