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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

                               of ardor



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 –

without mockery,


as a girl laughs in her sleep,

             vigilance of an eternal present –

the second coming.

Karen An-hwei Lee poems

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.

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