Friday, October 4, 2019

no borders

The Poetry Swaggers are posting zenos today--a form created by J. Pat Lewis.  He says it's "so named for Zeno, the philosopher of paradoxes,especially the dichotomy paradox, according to which getting anywhere involves first getting half way there and then again halfway there, and so on ad infinitum. I’m dividing each line in half of the previous one. Here’s my definition of a zeno: A 10-line verse form with a repeating syllable count of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. The rhyme scheme is abcdefdghd.”

Getting halfway there and then a little closer, halfway again, seems like a sensible and honorable goal in general.  So here's my "No Borders" zeno.

no borders on the land or page.
tip the bottle,
greet me with a
nod or wink.
no borders on
the way we

(c) HM 2019
(Did you notice that I cheated?  Penultimate line should have only two syllables--but "how we/think" just doesn't work the way "they way we/think" works.  This is the definition of poetic license.)
Today for whatever reason I'm in the mood for language that's out there, that reaches beyond ordinary borders into the territory of the water mountain, otherness, rules unbound.  Here are two poems I've admired recently, both with pretty heavy-duty themes.  I hope you appreciate the language of these poets as I do--both of them Asian-American women.

You're So Paranoid | Franny Choi
--for José

A wall of cops moves like a wall of water on a barge no beauty.

A wall of iron swallows the woman who falls to the ground and keeps
falling. There's a video. The picture stays intact (again).

It's not pretty, meaning it's hard to watch.

When a poet says we have to keep our eyes open I know who he's talking to
I don't listen. I listen long enough to hate him.

If I say the woman dragged by her hair.
   If I compare it.

I witnessed meaning stood by the window meaning shuddered let
hand fall gently over lips pulled coat tight tighter.

A wall of cops bucks like a frightened boar. (If I describe it.)
Will it speak. If I say it came furtive and dressed in red.

The cops think cop thoughts.

The cops move.

                                         They walk like          
a walk. Like an economy which after all is a fairy
bucking with hunger. Not pretty. Not picture.

I follow the border patrol agent through the airport thinking
fast thoughts bloodfast blood hound steps he buys

a burrito. If I say he stood alive in line

and my friends are afraid to leave their bathrooms my friends
who I love and love and. My friends who eat
from plates who plug cords into machines for singing.

(If I say a wall of men standing on my friends' necks.) (If I describe it.)

My friends. Who slice plums illegally on soccer fields. Whose knees
move like knees into the grass. If I name the grass.

If I call sweet liquor and smoke
                                                           (if I say cloy).

If the child shrieks
as she's swung if the sun if August if blue juice
will it talk.               The cops are thinking cop thoughts.

They move. With a wall   inside them. Answering
machines answering.

The window rattles and I fall to my real knees.
If I hoist my friends up so they can be seen (by whom).

If I say they are beautiful if I compare if the sun.

Touches the glass and I feel it. ....

Read the rest HERE at my local poetry factory, SPLIT THIS ROCK.

The next one comes from a 2019 collection called INK KNOWS NO BORDERS: Poems of theImmigrant and Refugee Experience.

Domesticity | Kristin Chang

In Chinese, the word country is half
the word home:
. Written before a name,
also means domesticized, as in daughter

whittling her ribs into toothpicks.
Daughter breaking clean
as a bowl. I grow full on

steam. I eat through all my leashes, swallow
a sky twice my size. I gather rust
between my fingers, my girlhood

grown out of. In this country, I choose
between living like an animal or dying
like one. Be the tongueless dog or the hunger

it was rescued from. There is nothing alive
about me. I prove it with a passport
photo of my birth: my mother unknotting

me from a length of rope. Someday
a child will slip out of my body
like a neck from a noose. Motherhood

an attempt at my own life. I envy birds
who fly domestic, their bodies
native to the same sky. Our wings

are alien, attached backwards, angled
wounds. Instead of flight, we learned
butchery. How best to eat from

our injuries. We blow on our cuts
like cooling soup. Serve me
in a corset, a country waisting me

so thin I double as a blade….
Read the rest HERE, at The Rumpus, which is also a very interesting discovery.
The round-up today is hosted by Cheriee at Library Matters--thanks to a first-time host, and see you there!


  1. To say there are powerful images in these, Heidi, feels like a weak answer. I read through both several times, trying to pull meaning from the feelings there, the terrible heartache and yet, the persistence to survive: "Be the tongueless dog" may be terrible but that is what I took from it. I have Ink Knows No Borders and have not opened it yet and I need to. Thank you.

  2. Ha! Heidi, you are one poet that can "cheat" and get away with it in style. I love that we can still embrace that there are no borders on the way we think. Domesticity packs an emotional punch that sets me down with a hard thump. The images are so powerful...the suffering that caused them so real that on most days I'll choose hiding from them rather than dealing. I know I need to read this book. I'm working my way toward it. I know too that it will un-do me.

  3. Many years ago, I took a class on literary theory. One of the texts was by Terry Eagleton and he wrote something to the effect that literature should disrupt our thinking about the world. (Or our lives; maybe you read the same book once.) Both of these poems made me think of that book, for they have both disrupted my thinking about many things today. Thank you for always heightening my awareness.

  4. I love your zeno. My brain is too full right now to absorb the other two. And this is my biggest take-away: "Getting halfway there and then a little closer, halfway again, seems like a sensible and honorable goal in general." My new motto.

  5. I appreciate how your zeno takes us into the following poems Heidi. I have a hold on this book at my library. I love how these poems make us feel uncomfortable.

  6. Yay for taking poetic license, and yay for no borders on our hearts or minds....

  7. I like this idea of ink having no boundaries. We could do with a few less boundaries in so many ways.

  8. Heidi, all of the poems you shared are powerful. These lines, "no borders on/the way we/think gives us a hint on the other two with their rawness and emotions exposed.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!