Chinese Silence No. 22
after Billy Collins, ‘Monday’
The Italians are making their pasta,
the French are making things French,
and the Chinese cultivate their silence.
They cultivate silence
in every Chinatown on the persimmon of earth–
mute below the towers of Toronto,
silently sweeping the streets of Singapore
clear of noisy self-expression.
The Americans are in their sport utility vehicles,
the Canadians are behaving reasonably,
but the Chinese remain silent
maybe with a cup of tea or an opium pipe
and maybe a finger puzzle or water torture is involved.
Or maybe the Chinese are playing the Chinese
game of ping-pong,
the pock-pock of the ball against their tight-lipped mouths
as their chefs dice scallions and bean curd.
The Chinese are silent
because it is their job for which
I pay them what they got for building the railroads.
Which silence it is hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite
out of the 100 different kinds–
the Silence of the Well-Adjusted Minority,
the Girlish Silence of Reluctant Acquiescence,
the Silence that by No Means Should Be Mistaken for Bitterness.
By now, it should go without saying
that what Crocodile Dundee is to the Australian
and Mel Gibson is to the Scot,
so is silence to the Chinese.
before I invented the 100 Chinese silences,
the Chinese would have had to stay indoors
and gabble about civil war and revolution
or go outside and build a really loud wall.
And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall of thousands of miles
that is visible from the moon.
I mean a noisy wall of language
that dwarfs my medieval battlements
and paves the Pacific to lap
California’s shores with its brick-hard words.
Chinese Silence No. 24
after David Sedaris, ‘Chicken Toenails, Anyone?’
We are all just animals
a pinch of human feces
scrambled eggs duck tongues
What do you say
we go oriental?
And the egg rolls …
can you imagine?
They allowed you to brown bag
wads of phlegm
in the men’s room of a Beijing subway station
I looked at her thinking, You whore
I have to go to China
I’ve never looked forward to it
like twice-baked potatoes
or veal parmesan
It’s more real
I could dislike it
than the sound of one person
dredging up seeming
from the depths of my soul
using the other as a blowhole
In China something kept holding me back
the leg, the breast, etc.
hacked as if by a blind person
made entirely of organs
Yes, I must
shit in the produce aisle of a Chengdu Walmart
Yes, I must
disintegrate in the western-style toilet
Chinese Silence No. 46
after David Gilbey, ‘Intercultural Communication’
At the end of this poem my readers, true blue Aussies,
will buy me a beer at a dingy suburban pub.
Ply me with pies, burgers, and schnitzel
and charge it to the Chinese guy in the corner.
To return the favor, I will recite
my newly composed poem on Chinese silence
with its girls hiding their giggling mouths with their hands.
They call me mister. But I will change one of their vowels,
using the privilege of the international writer,
and make myself their master.
Everyone’s silent after my orientally delivered words.
What did I say? I’ll ask, my voice quiet as a girl’s.
But the joke’s on me. My listeners’ Chinese faces
say, now let’s hear you say that in a country of women.
- 108: DEDICATIONwith L Patterson & L Garcia-Dolnik 107: LIMINALwith B Li 106: OPENwith C SLowe & J Langdon 105: NO THEME 11with E Grills & E Stewart 104: KINwith E Shiosaki 103: AMBLEwith E Gomez and S Gory 102: GAMEwith R Green and J Maxwell 101: NO THEME 10with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones