Ian Chung

Hoodlum

When they arrested him,

Still sated on grandma

And lying in her bed,

He protested at once

And called it entrapment.

For if the little girl

Had never mentioned her,

He certainly would not

Have thought to eat her up.

Yet no one believed him.

Months later, she wrote him

In prison, announcing

Her impending wedding

To the young woodcutter

And thanking him for it.

How else could she have met

Such a nice man, always

Taking grandma baskets

And going nowhere else?

The wolf was horrified.

 

Tongue Geographies

I

We lost her at Dover’s white cliffs:

Because globalisation means

You are free to experience

Rejection partout dans le monde.

(Global citizens just possess

Better passports.) The officer’s

Headshakes translating sans erreur,

She is resigned. The rest of us

Sway between Dover and Calais,

Whispering about her bad luck,

Silently congratulating

Ourselves on our travel agents.

II

The ferry is mongrel. I catch

Smatters of French as I wander

Alone through its bowels, tempted

To inflict my rusty accent

On someone, just to surprise them

And watch them try to reconcile

My skin with my speech. Cravenly,

I hoard my thoughts, translating them

Back and forth in mental safety.

Enfin, je ne sais pas pourquoi,

我也不知道为什么,

And finally, neither do I.

III

I listen to them laugh at (with?)

You, still unable to decide

Whose side I am on. After all,

I am a person who bristles,

Ever so slightly, when someone

Tells me that I speak good English,

So why should I fault their sneering?

Now we are roommates in Paris:

You, doubly alienated

From English tour and French city,

I, needing the Korean for

‘No, trust me, I do not hate you.’

 

Ringmaster

If you are reading these words, I know two things about you:

Your coffee said, ‘Drink me until he is gone.

Here at the bus terminal of your marriage,

The buses leave one by one; the last shakes a tambourine.’

Your coffee says, ‘Drink me until I am gone!’

One and two and three and four: give a slight knock on the door.

Buses pass your house one by one. Each shakes a tambourine

At the milkman or mailman to psych them up.

One and two and three and four…then his slight knock on your door.

Mouseholes gather in houses; mouseholes do that.

So will the milkman or mailman fix things up?

Will they mention your finger’s tanline, or has it faded?

Your mousehole gobbles houses; mouseholes do that.

All those animals fit into your nights despite your ring.

How many before the tanline on your finger faded?

It has been a year since I left this circus.

All my animals fit under the light, within the ring.

Lunchtime habits die hard, harder than mice-teeth.

It has been a year since I joined the circus,

And I almost believe I have never been happier.

Lunchtime habits are hard to break, like mice-teeth

That ripped his jeans to Alaskan archipelagoes.

When with me, you claimed that you had never been happier.

I still found a stranger’s clothes in the hamper.

Those rips in his jeans, Alaskan archipelagoes,

They were the bus terminal of our marriage.

You thought I would not find them in the hamper.

If you are reading these words, I know two things about you.

 

Sav(i)o(u)r

A burnt pancake will not

make me abandon you.

Repairing such mistakes

helps you to carry on.

Make me abandon you

if that is what you need,

helps you to carry on

believing in yourself.

If that is what you need

in order to survive –

believing in yourself –

who am I to protest?

In order to survive,

pancakes will not suffice.

Who am I to protest

though? This is your kitchen.

Pancakes will not suffice.

Even you must see that,

though this is your kitchen.

Our life depends on it.

Even you must see that

we were not who we are.

Our life depends on it:

choosing to make changes.

We were not who we are,

and that is our problem.

Choosing to make changes

can cost a lot to fix,

and that is our problem.

Repairing such mistakes

can cost a lot. To fix

a burnt pancake will not.

 


Ian Chung’s work has appeared in Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil CureFoundling ReviewInk Sweat & TearsQuarterly Literary Review SingaporeThe CadaverineThe Misfit Quarterly and Unthology No. 3 (Unthank Books, 2012), among others. He reviews for various publications, including Rum & Reviews MagazineSabotage Reviews and The Cadaverine. He is the founder of Eunoia Review, and is also on the editorial teams of Epicentre Magazine and The Cadaverine. When not editing/reading/writing, he watches more TV than is reasonable for one person and harbours dreams of writing a multi-volume science fiction saga.