Poor Claudia published poetry, prose and conversations online and in print from 2009 to 2018.

Dong Li

Five Poems

  • re: friendship, an apocalypse
  • re: (no subject)
  • re: sorrowing
  • re: happy days
  • re: the end takes it all

re: friendship, an apocalypse

It is Waterman, just before

landslide. Fireworks crack

the night. You cannot catch

a bus to T.F. Green. The bench is full, no room for

your buttocks. You are on call. At the crossing

of Keene and Barnes, I am walking downhill

past Prospect Park. We are running on

cooling time, last circle off

Brown. I empty Scotch shots

to sing. Do you abide my arch

Faunce. We bear each other

to burn. The house is lit. Behind

that door, I couch on Duino

Elegies, against

windbreak. You will find the Aztec to show

your teeth. I am in the end

of light, undisturbed except to the smooth

skinned. We are allergic to the least

chamomiled. We are in the failing

fire. Apricots to the weathered

mouth. We spit.

We are in this

together. Subject line un-

fulfilled. Jam un-

stirred. What have we done.


Be frank. Stand

straight. My dear

dear friend, be gentle, be rain, be the damp

earth where the sick

dog shits.

re: (no subject)

It is 11:58. We are crossing

midnight. I am alert. You are sitting

by the window. Do you see. The graveyard

glitters in the clearing

of our minds. The eyes lick in

late fog. The dead get on

the roll tide. Do you see.

You tugged a lean note and signed

your name. The book you lent me I wrapped

in newspapers three layers thick. What is more

intimate than dew before daybreak. The walk

finished off long, prolonged as time skims

and we change.

Invocation too late. I need your help. I am under

the weather. We never had tea. Are you

in wind’s eye. I turned on the stove

and drink. Will you chiliflake

my soup. Now you smoke again. Now

you speak so often. The porch has no trash-

can. I lose my voice to the cold. Tonight the fog

looks like snow. Do you see. What is there

to avoid, at all cost. But suffering. But. Suffering.

Nothing to be done. Effectively lose. Or leave

or take, agony seamless. Who’s crying wolf. Do you

read. Boats in sands or hunters in woods.

We are neither. We strand. We kill. No. We are

this spit of earth. We are, in company.

Read along. Here is the heart. Do you see. Ever so quiet, does it

deliver. You are dark. Not of your skin. I am in the naked

light. Read along. The night

ever tender, the walk ever long. I am shameless.

Do you see. After the wave, debris will

surface. We will go

in the finite fine wind.

By rain. By boat. No. We die

in bed.

re: sorrowing

I am in

Providence. It is not

night. No snow. I am below

zero. Will you be

Venus. Not for

me. Not a chance. Magpie too early

for the spring. No dew for you. Salt

in my eye. The lounge

littered. My dry throat. We are

to clean. Are you

a mess. We are not monochrome

to what we are. The water boils

in the pot. Drop by

drop, it spills. Lemonginger.

Earlgrey. A mix too easy

to dye. Ocrelight in the cup. You and I

are one thing. There goes

no clearing. We fly

by the dark. The rain

will not fall. The city

holds ground. The waterfire

awaits. Along the Narragansett Bay, old barges

anchor rotten logs. The notes in the bottle

torn in the sea. We are here

to stay. I head in-

to the trees. Headphones clog

your ears. I am

listening. In the frenzy

we fill the day.

re: happy days

It is late

afternoon on a mild

winter day. I am

at the John Hay, nothing

circulating. You are

off to the lounge. Someone’s

watching over you. You have

no choice. The rollercoaster

ride almost

over. Like a hermit, you get

weak. Not in the knee. Single

mornings, you stand

out. What is here

to stay. Sunflowers droop

on their own appetite. You are too

cold to get out

of bed. My bones

brittle as cinders. Do you

wonder. Where

I am. We love

our mothers. We trust. In what

faith do I wish

to live and die. Almost.

Almost. What I taste is all

smell. Exhale. Inhale. Please move

the door. Your museum-

like arrogance. Far-out

kid, hello.

Hello, kid.

re: the end takes it all

It was the last

day. I did not realize. I never asked when

you would be leaving. Then you were finishing

laundry in the basement of a student dormitory.

I called you when the sunlight slanted

and the old couples moved back to their quietude

of impinging festivity. The children did not come.

The plastic chairs they sat on were still

warm to the touch. Paint peeled off. Lamplight switched

on. I threw a piece of paper into an open

garbage can without realizing that they were

looking at me. I felt their eyes and said

hi. They waved their hands. The man fished

out his cigarettes. The woman tightened her hands

on the armlet. I walked past. The fence

was between us. The children were leaving town.

The library was empty of the usual sweat

smell of young bodies rubbing off

their unflinching belief in the permanence

of the self. The world cares not one

drop. The pressure of the fountain was so

low. Lips were used to wrap. Now they were flipping

to drive out air so that speaking becomes

an activity of the voice

void of thinking

in air. You were always in

air. You saw me walk in and

out and you said you were getting

closer. I did not see. I looked all over

the hill. You were smiling

I could hear. Then you said

did you see the big tree on your right.

I did. I was blind to your presence.

I said I did not see you behind the trees.

I did not see the windows of the red brick building in

which you were running downstairs. You pointed

me to where you were. You were inside, waving.

I teased you, pretending I was angry with you no

more, amorously so. You were engaged

for the rest of the day. So I waited. You never called

as you promised. I knew you. You were happy

with an old friend, broken, torn and returned. I knew

you manipulated. That was something to back

on. You took your easy advantage. You were on your high

horse. For you, company is a call away when walk is needed.

I was thinking of a friend who snored whenever a laugh

is cracked fine. I rushed down the stairs and broke into

the street. The crowd was already gone. The lights

in the reading room were hardly lit. Come

down to your senses

and open the gate.

Dong Li

Dong Li was born and raised in the People’s Republic of China. His honors include fellowships from Yaddo, VCCA, OMI Ledig House, VSC, KHN, Millay, DAAD and Colgate University’s Olive B. O’Connor Poet-in-Residence 2013-2014. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, comma, poetry, Hotel Amerika, Denver Quarterly and Cincinnati Review. His work has been translated into German and appeared in manuskripte (Austria). Li is also Editor-at-Large (China) for the international translation journal Asymptote.