Lunch Poem 6/23/14

There's some kind of festival today – I don't know what for
But a rain of yellow flowers keeps falling, like confetti
All the trees are flowering
With their faces open, turned toward us – turned almost 
Inside out, and ready to die at a touch.

I touch one and get a handful of eggshells 
Brittle and thin, and white threads and slim pistils.

It was hot and got hotter
As we walked between two buses
Blowing hot air from the exhaust pipes
Kate says, I wish I was on an air conditioned bus
Heading for the middle of nowhere
	For a lake with giant ships 
Stacked tall as thunderclouds

In the midday heat I saw the preciousness of fountains
How they give themselves freely, and watch it all return
With a patience untouched by the fevers of time
And calling to my own fountains
The well water left in me from last winter's end
Because this, I realized, was what I want to be in her life
When everything burns
The pool of cool, drinkable water
Hidden deep in the shade

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Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

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Read more Mike Zhai poems published in Orange Quarterly:

Love Poem (winner of the 2017 Green House Poetry Prize)

Bart to SF

Dawn

Love Poem

I think of my mother now
Who tells me she's never been in love
"Oh, I knew it existed
In other countries -- wrapped in gold foil
Like fancy chocolates in a boutique shop
When I was 16, I read about it
In a contraband French novel,
Balzac's Nana, with a flashlight under covers
My face burned hot and cold all night 
I thought it was the best stuff in the world
How your whole body could be set in flames
But in those sorrowful days
When my family was trod underfoot
How could you afford such costly feelings?
To trust in anyone who did not share your blood
Was a sure sign of insanity
Our love was like that of burrowing animals
Fretful and full of anxious care
Wanting to eat and afraid of being eaten
This was my love for your father
I loved his broad shoulders, his hard hands
Tempered by rage, that could shield me
From the cruel winds, though I knew
Those same hands would also turn against me
This, too, is the love we bore for you
Silent, fretful and afraid to say its name."
 
Now in a country where it bubbles everywhere
Fizzy sweet like sodapop
This, too, is the love I bear
Silent, shy and laden with the stubborn longing
Of many who never knew tenderness
A sprig of wildflowers plucked
Bright and innocent from the soil
Fed with how many ancient tears

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Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

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Read more Mike Zhai poems published in Orange Quarterly:

Bart to SF

Lunch Poem 6/23/14

Dawn

Bart to SF

How I love you, shipping containers in the Port of Oakland
Giant cranes and corrugated warehouse roofs, this last view of land--
Because in a second it's all gone, subtracted down to a thin white line
Above the entrance to the tunnel

Then, not even that...

Down here, we are the only ones
Talking and thinking and texting each other
Keeping warm
We are the only warm dot
Under how many tons of frigid water

Darkness
Darkness out the window
Until we emerge to the sound 
Of many feet pattering
And many more, outside the station – a whole city
A different city
In the world ruled by the sun

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Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

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Read more Mike Zhai poems published in Orange Quarterly:

Love Poem (winner of the 2017 Green House Poetry Prize)

Lunch Poem 6/23/14

Dawn

An Interview with 2017 Green House Poetry Prize Winner Mike Zhai

Love Poem” (winner of the 2017 Green House Poetry Prize), Bart to SFLunch Poem 6/23/14, and Dawn are poems by Mike Zhai published in the REVIVAL issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 5), released in fall 2017 (on October 31).

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What inspired you to write this poem?

I am interested in how the past lives within the present, the dead within the living, the unseen within the seen. In love one does not know who it is that loves; one is no longer oneself in some way, but more than oneself. Perhaps it is our dead ancestors who love through us, who choose whom we love, and teach us all the right and wrong ways to love them. I like to write about moments that connect our contemporary experience with the most ancient experiences of human beings, about the liminal moments between sleeping and waking, the surface and the deep.

What do you like about reading or performing your work for an audience? 

I am a rather unimaginative reader of my own work, and don’t particularly enjoy reading it for an audience. I enjoy reading others’ poems more, and would rather someone else perform my work. I think performance is an art in itself, separate from writing poems, and maybe that’s why I usually enjoy having my work read by someone else. It introduces a fresh perspective and brings a new aspect to the poem.

Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?

Ross Gay, Laura Kasischke, Eileen Myles, Anne Carson, Yi Lu, Duo Duo, D.H. Lawrence, Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Marina Tsvetaeva, Li Po, Du Fu, Eileen Chang, Virginia Woolf, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Lo Ka-Ping.

What are working on next, and what excites you most about the future?

I am working on a book of translations from Li Po. I hope I live a long time and my writing keeps changing.

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Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

Dawn

This new day that approaches
Like the pale sand
Of a foreign land,
My bed a little boat
Still afloat
On the dark waves of night.
Yesterday’s folk, all left behind
In the old country, their kind
Looks, as I looked away
Still aching in my mind.
The window slowly fills with light;
The keel digs in through the foam–
What is this strange new day
That I will call home?

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Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.

*

Read more Mike Zhai poems published in Orange Quarterly:

Love Poem (winner of the 2017 Green House Poetry Prize)

Bart to SF

Lunch Poem 6/23/14

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