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The Clarity of Longing: Two Poems by Marco Yan

as if smell promises taste and always delivers. / Pleasure, when observed, wets into compulsiveness.

By Marco Yan
Poetry | Nara, Poetry Tuesday, love
May 5, 2015

For this week’s Poetry Tuesday we bring you “Aubade” and “Walking Alone in Nara” by Marco Yan. These poems at first deceive us with their serene tone then surprise us with their bizarre imagination. They take sharp and unexpected turns, refusing to remain plain love poems. “Aubade” weaves the sensuality and primality of licking, and ties the two elements together at the end; “Walking Alone in Nara” transfigures the speaker and the intimate “you” into incompatible creatures. In each poem, the speaker and the absent “you” hunt and haunt each other, and we are left longing for the “you” with the speaker, neither of them the same beings from the beginning of the poem.

—Emily Yoon





This morning’s bacon, sweat, the scent of shampoo
that outlasts hair—a house guest has left behind
so much my dog is again licking the couch cushion.

Her tongue on the fabric, darkening the red to brown,
as if smell promises taste and always delivers.

Pleasure, when observed, wets into compulsiveness.
I say No and shove her aside, then rub the corner.

It’s the dampness I knew when I woke in your room last March.
A window open, a neighbor was mowing outside and spring was there—

the dew, the sharp burn of michelia and their returning light
blended into the base note of your perfume.

You weren’t on the other side of the bed, so I went on
licking the blanket, your smell somewhere in the floral print.





Walking Alone in Nara


Four blocks away from a train station, I find a deer
sniffing grass by a traffic light. It raises its head,
stares and strolls east, leading me deep into the park.

August animates the trees but shuts air out of my lungs.
Blinded by heat, I watch the deer trample the path—
if I faint here, my ghost will need a body to haunt.

If I claim this deer, will you abandon your senses,
bend down to a crooked beast in this bamboo forest
and trek on the winding trail, your paws swift on the leaves?

Will you watch me nibble greedily from a tourist’s hand
slices of apple, biscuits softened by sweat in a palm?
Can you trace the smell of my fur across the fishpond?

As I climb the pebbly slope, will you seize me from behind
and sink your fangs into my neck, tearing me apart
in the underbrush? Will you even know it’s me?

I stop at the vermillion gate of the shrine,
the monkless one where people pray for trivial things
like money, love and better luck. I open my eyes,

rest on a wooden bench and watch the trees
swallowing the town. I hear somebody’s wish
whispered somewhere, only the chime of the bell is clear.