Chang Liu is a freelance translator and an aspiring forest conservationist. Half his genes are Chinese, the other half French. Somehow he also became a student of Thai dance, language and culture, a gay man, a year-round cyclist and a voracious vegan. So much for labels.
The last wild places—not to mention your local park—are fast disappearing under sterile, industrial surfaces. As we fall further under the spell of our self-reflexive technologies, we forget, even disdain, our age-old conversation with the non-human world that anchors us. Many of Chang’s poems address this non-human world: the soil, trees, animals and waters that still call to us and remind us of our ancient kinship with them. His gay poetry, too, inevitably weaves itself back into the non-human world—the grass beneath our love-making.
Chang’s poetry has appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Sky Island Journal, and in two anthologies, T.O.K. Book 5 and The Dry Wells of India: an Anthology Against Thirst. His first full collection, When it was Naam that I drank, not Water, is seeking a publisher but is downloadable as an e-book from Glad Day Bookshop. He is working on a second collection, Little spirits, Great spirits: a book of non-human poems.
In anticipation of his July 11 reading, here are two poems: one on earth love, one on gay love. At their best, the two are interchangeable.
it rains like the end of suffering twice, three times a day
or all night
our soi floods noodle carts scatter trees glow
the old teak houses below my building lean closer to oblivion
and the Bodhi trees’ leaves wait and wait for a new Buddha
to sit under their shelter.
all I can do is burrow back into my bed that smells
of my Isaan lover and me
and turn all my heavy-lidded energy
back to his tamarind skin
why go out?
this is the rainy season.
it’s day-long naps
kissing between bites of sweet sticky rice and tea
listening to him lilt old-fashioned louk-toung hits from when
he was new to Bangkok and young and hungry,
it’s loving, again and again, the roar of the rain drowning out our labours
and pretending we’re safe
under one of those rickety bamboo shelters upcountry, stranded
in the flooded rice paddies of your home village
where they wait for you
My treat, we’ll feast.
what is tomorrow? there is no tomorrow. Only
more moisture—stay! this is the rainy season,
the great annual amnesty sweeping
though this sprawling guilt, this madness, this city
this is the rainy season, when
twice, three times a day
or all night
we surrender our dryness
and remember our past lives as fish
when, as soon as
you step out of doors,
rain washes you like a mother
Silence in the crab-apple trees
Spring was shooting up ecstatic
inside my body and
for weeks on end, their fuchsia blooms exploded too, birthing
the two crab-apple trees in front of our house flung
their heady fragrance around
and bees by the thousands answered
the pheromone flute—countless tiny suns spinning the cosmic dance
of the Nataraj.
What year was it they stopped coming?
Now, I sit on this bench,
high summer humming inside my body.
True to the contract that was sealed when the ocean of milk was still churning,
black-eyed Susan and swamp milkweed growing forgotten
in this downtown park still sag under the rites
of a scattering of fuzzy ministers. I cannot accept,
they are departing this sweet earth, one hive at a time.
Who planted this bed
of riotous fecundity? A genius, a master illusionist. All I can do is sit here
before this mass of flowers,
and wait for the heavy honey of summer to soothe
my clenched throat,
wait for the lullaby of life making love to itself with half-closed lids
to still my aching chest. And answer
the call of the flute.
Chang Liu visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Vanessa McGowan, Arielle Twist, Kiley May, and guest speaker Scott Fraser who will share his thoughts about, “Understanding Acquisitions: What Authors Should Consider When Pitching Their Book.”