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Art Wong Is Alive and Ill and Struggling in Oakland California

June 05, 1988

by Marilyn Chin

I.

Chi Pai Shih was born in the Year of the Boar. And a bore he was; his footprints dirtied the snow. Thirty, I painted landscapes;

forty, insects and flowers;

fifty, I turned lazy as mud,

never ventured beyond

West Borrowed Hill.

II.

Oh, Nonsense! Art is a balding painter, humpbacked as the dwarfed acacia dying in his father's chopsuey joint. sg His palette is muddy; his thoughts are mud. He sits crosslegged, one eye open, the other shut, a drunken Buddha. I laugh at the sun; I take in air;

I whistle in sleep, let cicadas within

murmur their filial rapture

My father's dream is my dream:

fast cars and California gold;

the singles bar is my watering hole.

III.

And I ... I am in love with him. Never ask why, for youth never begs the question. As long as boughs are green so is my love green and pure in this asphalt loneliness. I let down my long hair; my hair falls over his shoulders: thus, we become one. Oh, Willow, Cousin Willow, don't weep for me now. Consummate this marriage between Art and me, between the diaspora and the yearning sea. sg From "Dwarf Bamboo" by Marilyn Chin (The Greenwillow Review Press, 2 Middle Grove Road, Greenfield Center, N.Y. 12833: $9.95, paper; 77 pp.). Chin, born in Hong Kong, grew up in Portland, Ore., and earned a BA in Chinese literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an MFA from the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. She has been the recipient of several poetry awards, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Stegner fellowship from Stanford University. She lives in San Francisco. "Dwarf Bamboo" is her first book of poems.

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