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For this week’s #PoetryTuesday, we have two poems from Timothy Yu’s “Chinese Dreams” series, which Yu describes as “a project in progress that is rewriting the Dream Songs of John Berryman.”


Chinese Dream 6


During the father’s absence—what he know
of soft words to Timothy, the press
and crush of feeling, cannot say—
as during his dark father’s, all the hurts
& hustles of a striving immigrant
back to the quiet boy in island pent,

Taiwan’s romantic child, and Li Po drunk
with bitter insatiable greed, Timothy’s late,
and Doc Sun Yat-sen was a modern man,
all through the nation’s dream of a start,
when Mao was whipping Chiang and would have no heart
for parted lovers, catch them if you can,

while America’s guile to keep the fathers out
was the reason, dear Henry, Chinese doubt
inscrutably was growing, toward what end?
A silent son over a blotted page
written in gall, a eunuch’s unknown rage,
these baubles breaking under your feet, friend.




Chinese Dream 9


Deprived of his slumber, undine of the honor roll,
timorous Timothy, striving. Fan-tan dance
toward them who troll
the high schools: admissions officers, best
in U.S. News ranking: improve his chance
on entrance test

by being, please, inhuman: robot, please,
therefore get the phone call from H–v–d that crow
“You in, you in.”
Therefore he trudge, incurious; degrees
step-stone over seething undertow.
At Downtown Crossing

he trail the shoppers, buying nothing, & rub
his rented nose. He know: myself am hell.
His feet unmoved in the snow.
A crack: just mildly racist. Boston hub
his grating gut, & the clockwork brain
advance one gear, too slow.



Timothy Yu is the author of the poetry collection 100 Chinese Silences (Les Figues), which was the editors’ selection in the NOS Book Contest. He is also the author of three chapbooks: 15 Chinese Silences (Tinfish), Journey to the West (winner of the Vincent Chin Chapbook Prize from Kundiman), and, with Kristy Odelius, Kiss the Stranger (Corollary). His writing has appeared in Poetry, Jacket2, Cordite Poetry Review, and SHAMPOO. He is a professor of English and Asian American studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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