OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 3
Karen An-hwei Lee
Dear Millennium, On Microengineering New Hearts In Miniature
Dear millennium: why teach us nothing
about a world of destitute hearts
in miniature, cut-out loves and valentines
disposable by adulterous flame, ignited even
by the least among us?
Here it is – a cardiomyocyte pulses, there
Progenitor heart-cells frozen on stained glass
Parenchymal rhythm with electrical waves
in a petri dish
Blood shunting through a radial artery
Ruptured, then healing an unholy tear,
Slender paths swept by microengineers
The other woman gazes upon the one who is also loved
wondering, when she turns out the light in the evening,
whether, like herself, the other – who is not herself –
thinks of her beloved as a father or a lover. She thinks:
father. She corrects herself: lover. Then she cannot
sleep, lying awake in the darkness, pondering the same
syllables over and over which mean nothing to any ear,
not even a confession, dear millennium. Infinitude
of tortured little hearts in miniature, ad nauseum.
Dear Millennium, Our Loveless Soul-Boutiques
Dear millennium, our love is a sun-battered drone
inquiring: how do the testimonies of eyewitnesses
confirm an orange alert in retrospect, penultimate
filtered as a migratory colony of evacuation drills,
of xenophobia whose nation of device-larded bombs
wakes hours later, strolls to a pharmacy for antacid,
a primrose oil, beeswax, and herb-flavored floss.
Bioengineered seeds of midnight’s lithium-laced
clouds lodged in your millennial gullet, first-world
hashtags affixed to haberdashery.
No race for a cure exists, no cure for racists –
post-lapsarian matrix of cynicism, we're born
yet again to unravel confessions of narcissists.
Maggots get to everyone, says old empiricists,
a mobile feast for ancient denizens of disgrace.
Ashes to ashes, says the common prayer book,
our flesh inglorious yet blissful as the appetite
of juvenile flies sipping buds of air in our lungs,
those fouled mirrors of breath on consignment
in our loveless soul-boutiques.
Dear millennium, are you listening? Please
do not abandon us
to your accursed blood-empires.
Dear Millennium, On Phenomena
On phenomena, not phenomenal, as in the virtue
of dynamis or dysmenorrhea healed. Phenomena
of nickel-iron meteorites caress a bushfire skyline
in fragments no larger than olives, flesh-stones
knifed in a father’s boyhood. Sun-black olives,
dense bodies of phenomenology, fall to the earth
and wild birds come eat. Our bleeding human
phenotypes are only kinsfolk not stone. Girlhood
resurrects a non-fruiting cultivar while saplings
enseed mortal reiterations of winter. Of tree soil
virginal in the pit of an olive. Oliveras. Olivas.
Dear Millennium, An Elegy In Palos Verdes Light
The blind woman says, in a vision
I could see
as in my girlhood. We took a ferry
and rode bicycles on an island
off the coast. The path ended on a cliff
overlooking the sea.
Red clover, wild sage. We strolled
through rambling blackberries
in saltbrush. How I long to see
as in those days.
Glass chapel in the redwoods.
Over a lake, our lesser egrets are thin. Sun dies
one note at a time in Palos Verdes, tones
fading – yet witnessed.
Winter light over water – you never woke
to see the birds
folding, withdrawing – lifting early.
Final retrospective in the eternal –
After the journey through a tunnel,
proverbial light at the end –
who is there?
Gift of calisthenics,
a metaphorical body for grace.
Humor not of vitreous nor of glass –
as a girl laughs in her sleep,
vigilance of an eternal present –
the second coming.
Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis 2017). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. She earned an M.F.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.