I have quiet, nonchalant foibles
my Chinese wife doesn't like.
I walk around with
a glass in my hand, talking.
I carry cigarettes
but don’t smoke.
I smile too much
and fail to say what I really think.
A diary receives all her thoughts
and she reads each page outloud:
“Husband told agent two lies,
must punch or not undress tonight.”
“Husband has three day-old beard,
this style for his Hollywood friends.”
She likes to hold hands in the movies
and will kiss if we sit in the back row.
Sunday I found her at the window
singing serenely to the garden birds.
She writes: “Birds safely returned from
winter, wonderful stories about Florida.”
Chinese Movies (Part II)
She forages in my pajama bottom
and locates hidden water chestnuts.
She lights the green table lamp, doffs
eye glasses like a museum curator
before a display case, sucks
a 1,000 year old Chinese breath.
I innocently ask, “Ming Dynasty? ”
'Oh no, ' she says, her voice slender
as moonlight, her silk top cracked
perfectly exposing two snow cherries.
“That would be me.”
Chinese Movies (Part III)
Chen paints and holds her face
very close to the canvas,
like a woman at the mirror
with a contact lens.
Her eyes, purple as plums,
peer into her watercolor;
she resembles a fisherman
A Mandarin when she works,
her oversize smock and sleeves
look like petals. I expect rice fans
to appear for shade, gifts from
her village in rural China.
Once finished, she takes blossoms
from her work table to the garden
and decorates the birdbath.
'The birds will drink
and see that their
have been answered.'
Her painting dry and bamboo
brushes wrapped, she prepares
to bathe, pausing to peel
a fat persimmon, the juice drips
and forms a glistening dropp
on her gold thigh:
'Look, another water color.'
Chinese Movies (Part IV)
At a party, a handsome boy flirts.
Leaning forward she says quietly,
“I am wife of rich silk merchant,
but Chinese girls have sisters.”
Passing by me in the kitchen
I feel her marble smooth hand
across my hips light as a bird
bending to dip water from a lake.
Preparing for bed, something soft
is carelessly tossed across a chair;
sober and erect in high heels,
she asks: red tonight, or black?
I help her pack for a business trip.
She writes out my advice in Chinese:
1. Not to enter the elevator with men.
2. If robbed, give everything at once.
At the airport she gives a secret gift:
snow white panties, her name
in delicate caligraphy on the front panel;
she whispers, “So you will not forget me.”
Last to mount the stairs, she stops.
Her hand raised to wave, palm inward
like a child Empress governing alone
in the Forbidden City.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.