5 Poems
by Ray Hsu

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A Public Report

Dear Sir or Madam:

Over the last 4 months
Austin, Mumbai, Portland
we never finished. December 12,
4:15 p.m., we presented
sufficient dignity and overwhelming
feeling. In a state
of developing
affair, we circled
emergency. We circled
our ability to respect.
Where our inclination
for nihilism had been, our presentation
was possessed with sophisticated
                        We are good for the facts.

                        We opened our notebook

on the dotted line.

Duologue  (deux rêveurs au coin du feu)

                   Amitié insoupçonnée

      A fire left unattended

                à la croisée des chemins

  the way paths cross reminds me of
two people reading together.

   Echange et confrontation
     harmonie, compréhesion

          as if in writing the same thing

but an instant apart.

             Les lettres s'enlacent
                          les mots s'effacent
                                et puis reviennent comme s'ils étaient écrits sur le sable
                            caressés par les vagues

      where the silent is active
      where the air is stunned
         by a flock of letters

   qui s'envolent vers l'horizon
au crépuscule ou à l'aube peut-être?


((the water (moves in directions)

is contradictory) (it crosshatches)

(a fire

inches below the surface)

surfaces) (the water tells

our reflection)


(cold) (inches from the surface)

(my smudged glasses turn

the lights (of Christmas)

into auras)

(we three dream

out by the crosshatches we are contradictory)


(we three

(give up language

as hunters)

give up their language)


(something inches below the surface

inches above the surface))

Your Child

The North is now clear.
Parts of the East still resist.

In this next round, we expect
to lose over 8,000

to government forces, so
to finally gain Tamil Eelam

we have pushed our recruitment
drive to Kilinochchi.

By the new year, each of you have already
received letters with our request.

His studies are important,
but the war is urgent. Education

can come later. We knocked
and you did not come

which is why we had to use
the roof. A month from now

his mother will break down,
grow ill, and pass away. Somehow

he will escape custody and reach
Vavuniya. Or Colombo. His sister will be taken.

One married son will be taken.
In exchange, we ask for two

unmarried sons. Perhaps you
fear for your married son

if you don’t hand over the two.


I think those things
worth saying must be the trees
in the forest, as they say. To find

those things gradually by themselves
is a difficult thing to ask
of anyone. That work

sounds like work cut out
for us. Maybe that work
is gathering, but gathering

as picking the fewest things
necessary, of the proper weight,
after a bit of a trek, and these fewest

we would pick, by definition,
would be the right ones
and only ones. I also think

that the poem's word does
depend on if you show it
to me. There is a difference

between my thinking
and my saying this thinking,
one that takes me time to realize.

Which is why this poem
is this poem: it is only
a reply, which is to say that it exists

because you said so
and, not ignoring so,
I say this.



Ambiance by Ray Hsu

Quotations of Brainy Smurf by Ray Hsu