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Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Finalist : 2011 Poetry Contest


Listen to Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé read "Scholem in Forty Winged Hours":

Scholem in Forty Winged Hours

The truer the form, the more powerful the life of the formless within it.

                                                                  — Gershom Scholem

If only in spring, I could keep with me these books.

If only this room had grown busier, more urgent clutter
to board up every corner, a newer silence,
all the empty spaces covered, so I might not see the shadows.
If only where they hide, a sign awaits, luminous.

If only Scholem were interred somewhere
in the crawlspace repealed, of blank pages inserted throughout
any of these mountain books.
If only his German discipline still showed him a lesson in art.

The neglected stone now flickers iridescent like a headpiece.

If only the bird chariot has begun toying around with flight.
Or fright perhaps, pretending leashes make it believe itself
dragged into these nineteen treatises.

If only. I clasp it by the beak,
bronze tail lifted, as if both of us bowed at once, a face-off. 

If only on this sill, a brassy candelabra shines, butterflies on five arms;
the colonial double stick in its rank pewter seems wrongly sized.
And the wide dais of the singular roosts
on the feet of leaves, if only last autumn was less of a eulogy.

If only and after all, unflappably the historian and the mystic pole apart.

How we hide behind votive offerings.
Behind what we write, what names, if only.
If only we knew how.
How our souls hide behind what we imagine, unpronounced
as safety matches we reuse calmly to ferry a flame.

The window blinds have been dismantled,
taken care of as if afraid – to catch a thick, auburn fire.

Does a writer conspicuously walk this sadness, its tyranny?
If only in the silence between these open chapters?

I don’t know why but no matter what,
nothing seems luminous enough – the reading, the writing;
and I feel the hours coursing through me, yellowing
to keep me cold and alive, like ice in blood.

If only on days like these, the colours burst into peonies.

The buskers outside are running harmonics,
up and down, like rain in sheets that know no beginning, no end.
Their fingers are tapping invisible rafters, then carving pirouettes
as if nature itself would incarnate in turn, shifty as memories.
One framed imago after another, if only.

I am naked as a bowl on a rock. Its rings ring clean in my ear.

“They might know where to go from here.”
If only, Yehuda Amichai gathered for himself the pauses.
He pauses just so,
shoves his pen in a broken lampshade where it too holds,
as he returns to dinner and theatre in the arcades.

But before all else, he gives away a prayer.
If only there were more of the mythic and soft nodding.

There’ll be more letters more or less
another day, less being more, more uneven and ravaged,
more than we can bear but must, lest we forget.
Or so I thought as much, if only.

If only, there was still summer and wafting leaves to remind us.



Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books. These span the genres of ethnography, journalism, poetry, and creative nonfiction, several edited pro bono for nonprofit organizations. An interdisciplinary artist, Desmond also works in clay, his commemorative pieces housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
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