The mind is an emotional orb. The disaster is forthcoming and cannot be anticipated. The mind sinks one thousand ways. What is frightening some of the time can be frightening all of the time. The same goes for tomorrow. Who we are today is not who we are tomorrow. This is why we must churn, or be churned. Standing up for one’s self is not the same as walking without a destination. A journey is necessary in order to become a SELF-MADE MAN. Feelings aside, what do I hope to achieve in such a short amount of time—the right to certainty?
We talk over each other all the time. We exchange ghosts in the details. The ghosts are made up of oranges. All bent out of shape after interrupting a single thought. How does an orange dinner sound to you? At the beginning of a nation, fear surrounds the things you love. And though I am not defined by what I love, I believe I am defined by what I fear. I am scared most of the time. I crouch in the corner facing the wall. In the middle of the conversation, I am airlifted over a sea of freaks. The ancient Chinese believe the spirit of all dead ancestors must be catered so as to avoid any angry ghosts in the family. And the crime doesn’t stop there.
My grandfather, Hou Kang Hua, was arrested in 1961 at three o’clock in the morning. Unable to collect any clothes or supplies, he was blindfolded and forced to board a plane to Sikkim, then transported on horseback to the border. There, he was forced to cross through the Himalayan Mountains via the Nathu La. Nathu means “listening ears” and La means “pass.” He follows a mailman to Tibet. Waist-deep in snow. Never to be seen again.
Blood is thicker than water
An arrangement made by God
Treacherous is the land that devours the needy
To whom do you belong?
I stretched alone for miles, voiceless and with braided birds overhead. Whose dream am I immortal in? I am surrounded by ugly floral wallpaper. All the flowers giving me the evil eye. To come to the conclusion: We are all alone in this world. Nothing but meat remains. It takes time to be known. Immortality is not the end point. The seeming abundance of wealth and fortune has no basis in today’s technology. I appear smaller and smaller on the passageway. A pale form, neglected. Submission as a form of protection. To have no lineage will be without the basic social protection.
Everybody lies a little bit here and there.
I am obedient when it comes to sleep. Haunting is at its prime in the after hours. The search for clarity needs no explanation. Envisioned the heartless in respect to the gainfully employed. SELF MADE MAN leaves me clear in my need for queer and clean.
An oblong shadow cast over a tumultuous landscape that is the self. Perhaps it is extinction that we fear the most. The drought always in front of us, and as present as ever. Experience shrivels leaving behind a pile of skin. Skin, what we see in the mirror—that which envelops us. The majesty of our insides reveals the slow manipulation of hormones. The everyday spinning us in circles so fast we emit light. Light, being what we need the most. We throw light on desire. We throw desire into a hole. And the rest is history. Or so we think. But there is still a ways to go—several more border wars. Children are tucked into bed. Curtains are drawn tightly shut. There is no need for God—at least not now. Our commitment, our grasping for the unreal defines us. This hot and sticky core implanted in the center of our beings. What’s gray stays gray. The kingdom of tomorrow awaits us all.
I stand before my ancestral tribe muttering words to myself. All the words I say in one day reap no benefit for the outsider. I clear out my nasal passages over old meat. The circumstances will change, but the mindset will not. Living free in this world inflicts just the right amount of cruelty.
My great-grandfather, Hou Chin Hsiu, was arrested in 1963. Crammed into a train with the word “enemy” scrawled along the side of it. He was taken to the Deoli Internment camp in Rajasthan. And though the war technically lasted for one month, he was interned for the next six years.
As the train rode through the countryside, men threw sticks and rocks at it.
Humiliation quiets us in the realm of uncertainty.
Defeat knows know bounds. Miraculously, a contradiction appears within shelter of the deep blue lake. Between two countries: a maw for the deported.
Understand that my behavior has no limits. It stretches infinitely. Muscle tied to muscle. I live within the terror of boxes to come. When time is not on our side, but above the translucent gray.
Beauty knows no terror. The transgression is real.
Botched medical procedure
The custodian of enemy property takes it all
The better to see you. “Unlikeable” being the least bit of your worries. If you have the right idea, the talisman will guide you. But what is seeing when we are set up for failure in the dunes of lust? Tears whither our bodies into submission. This is the moment where truth unfolds. This is where you will be set free. An almost touching occurs. We touch in blue spirit, woven into the context of contemporary. Era flashes its earthly glow. Wandering naked on all fours. This floor is the closest to my state of being. An individual hormone is hardly benign. Throughout history, we have been hopelessly dedicated to the bad habits that make us animals. But why tradition? Why now?
Absorbed by feeling for a second time. What if truth is not a destination, but the mountains? How far did you travel to make it here? It is easy to get hurt when crossing borders. Borders are gray zones. The skull tossed back and forth like a ball. Abstraction not as erasure, but legitimate moment in time. City perched above the natural grain. Frustrated by red graves planted in the middle. What we already have in possession, we cannot gain. Tradition throws light at the wrong point of focus. Look into the screen. Telecommunication is vital.
Switch your clasp. Bring the opposite thumb on top. Comfort defines our being on this earth. And so discomfort unnerves us, stiffens our muscles. Are we geniuses? Are we babies? The past left for dead, the dead left to fend for themselves. Songs about childhood are kept for safekeeping in the spine. And the paintings of life say so much about us. So what do we crave? Illusions. When does a nation rise to the pathetic moon? At what age does one find redemption? Without protection, the virus spreads from cell to cell, from moon to moon.
The “Family Teachings” listed above are from Ming-Tung Hsieh,_ A Lost Tribe_ (United Kingdom: AuthorHouse, 2011), 141-142.
“The ancient Chinese believe…” and “To have no lineage…”: Ibid. 140.
“Neck Movement” by Marylou Draper from Hiroshi Motoyama, _Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Consciousness, _p. 70
Thomas Trosch, The Conversation Piece, 2002
Ellsworth Kelly, Blue White, 1962
screenshot from Ecco the Dolphin, videogame
Christine Shan Shan Hou, pieces of you, 2016
Miriam Cahn, hände hoch!, 2014
Agnes Martin, Bones #2, 1959
Christine Shan Shan Hou, ERA, 2013
Christine Shan Shan Hou, mystical persuasion, 2014
Christine Shan Shan Hou is a poet and artist living in Brooklyn, NY. Publications include C O N C R E T E S O U N D (2011) a collaborative artists’ book with artist Audra Wolowiec, and Accumulations(Publication Studio 2010). Additional poems and artwork appear in Fanzine, Elderly, La Vague Journal, iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, Weekday, Bone Bouquet, Belladonna*, LIT, The Atlas Review, tender, and Two Serious Ladies amongst others. She has received awards from Key West Literary Seminar, The Flow Chart Foundation/The Academy for American Poets, and Naropa University. www.christinehou.com