A short story interspersed with free verse poems and inspired by Krzysztof Kieślowski's A Short Film About Love (Krótki film o miłości 1988)
Monday, February 14, 2005
I AM A SICK MAN … I am a wicked man. A coward. I don’t dare to tell you I like … No … LOVE YOU. Instead, I only watch you through the eyepiece of my telescope. Every night I sleep beside you but wake up alone in my room.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
As Plato said, “Love is a serious mental disease.” I’ve been afflicted with this disease for six months. I am a sick man.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Earlier tonight, Mary took me to dinner at the Family Plaza. We sat at a corner table; she took out Joe’s letter and I read it to her. As always, she cried while I read the letter. Unlike me, Joe is lucky to have such a caring mother. I felt guilty that I was in a rush to finish my meal as quickly as possible and return home to watch you. You’re the only one I care for. How could I tell Mary about you? She’s like a mother to me.
Friday, February 18, 2005
I was lucky today. I bought a new telescope which has a telephoto lens. Now, I can zoom in closer on you, watching you closely with my heart and mind.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Why did you cry? That man did not deserve your love. What does he have? Just a face and a Jaguar. You deserve more than what he can offer you -- a pure heart.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Around 7pm, I had a heated dispute with Mary, arguing that I couldn’t break my rule to write Joe a letter for her because I needed my fullest attention to study after 7. Yes, I study you with my heart and mind. Surprisingly, Mary scorned me in return, yelling how ungrateful I was. But, I have helped her in writing letters, repairing pipes, dumping garbage, and accompanying her to see her doctors and do grocery shopping on numerous occasions. I am not only her tenant but also her surrogate son, doing almost everything Joe should be doing for her. I just can’t break my rule for her. After 7pm, there is only one thing I should do – study!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
I zoomed in on you, seeing you moving up and down with slow, circular movements and that man’s hands sliding up from your breasts on to your shoulders and altering your rhythm. I … I couldn’t stand it anymore. I opened my desk, took out a pocket knife, rushed down to the basement parking lot, and found his piercing red Jaguar. I stooped down to plunge the sharp tip of the knife with climactic fierceness into one of tires. It felt good, so I stabbed the others … the second, the third, and then the fourth. Fuck! It felt good.
Thursday, February 25, 2005
Today was my lucky day.
During the office hour, I had the most satisfactory discussion with my American Poetry teacher about Robert Bly’s “leaping poetry,” a poetic form that is rooted in the surrealist tradition. I was literally struck by her insightful comments. Yes, leaping poetry is more than leaping from one image to another. It is first and foremost about images conceived by an animal native to the wild imagination.
After school, on my way home, I accidentally, no … I was DESTINED to encounter you. You are my Calliope. My first leaping poem, Throbbing Agony, is dedicated to you. One day you’ll read it aloud and then put it in that chest where you keep all your treasures.
I must have experienced la petite mort after Calliope caressed my secret spots -- enveloped in pleasure as the grass is wrapped in dewy green. I am a bard riding a dragon, flying across time and space. I can't tell you where -- It is as if I appeared where I am now.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
I had another heated dispute with Mary. I am not her plumber. She could call a plumber to repair her goddammed pipe. I could not break my rule. After 7pm, it’s study time. Period. End of discussion!
Tuesday, March 1, 2005
After reading Throbbing Agony out loud, I became a laughing stock. Almost all of my classmates interpreted my poem as a disguised erotic poem. Some of them touched their private parts as they passed by me. Some female classmates called me Tom Honey in front of me and Tom Horny behind my back. As well, I was slapped in the face by my Poetry teacher’s comment: “Perhaps a pleasant wet dream recalled with the morning light. Such a beautiful sunrise.” During the class, I tried to explain that although la petite mort, the French expression for "the little death", has been generally used to portray sexual orgasm, it has multi-layered meanings, one of which is the reading pleasure. The late French literary critic Roland Barthes claimed that one should get la petite mort when reading any great literature. But, no one except my poetry study partner, Sarah, paid any attention to my explanation. In her plain look, I saw gentleness and sincerity.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Today, my Creative Writing teacher taught us an important novelistic technique -- showing vs. telling. Telling conveys information quickly, and it is used to summarize time periods and events that are not very interesting or important to the story. Showing means creating a scene that dramatizes and draws readers into the story, allowing readers to sink their teeth into it to evoke an experience. I like his teaching style and enjoy reading course materials. But, right now, my big problem is not showing vs. telling, but WHEN SHOULD I TELL YOU I LOVE YOU.
Thursday, March 3, 2005
After the American Poetry class, Sarah came over to talk with me, merrily saying “I see what you mean with the two parallel uses of la petite mort and the multiple powers of Calliope.” While talking, she looked intensely at me and seemed to look into my soul. At that moment, I found there was an attractive quality about her plain face.
Later this afternoon, I phoned Sarah, asking her a hypothetical question: would a woman accept the love of a physically and financially unfit man? She answered my heart-wrenching question in a Bly-esque manner: “You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. There is only one way. Go into yourself." Yes, I can see now. I need to follow my heart and tell you I LOVE YOU.
Sunday, March 6, 2005
You slapped my face, yelling at me, “Are you fucking nuts? How could you do this? You don’t know me, so how can you say you love me? How old are you? Doesn’t your mother tell you how to respect the privacy of other people? You pervert! Come here again and I’m calling the cops!”
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I have avoided talking with Sarah for days. I got into a fist fight with John because he touched his private parts in front of me. Later, I talked back to Mary, shouting at her, “I’m not your plumber, garage dumper, grocery-shopping helper, and God dammed son, Joe.”
Saturday, March 19, 2005
After fighting with that man, you cried for almost an hour. My heart was breaking.
Monday, March 21, 2005
My heart was breaking again.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I made peace with Sarah; however, I didn’t tell her what the real reason was that I had been angry with her for weeks. How could I tell her about you?
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
You threw the phone against the wall. Did that man hurt you again?
Saturday, March 26, 2005
That man doesn’t come to your flat as he used to. Did he break up with you? He does not deserve your love. ONLY I can give you what you really need – my heart!
Monday, March 28, 2005
I slipped a poem under your apartment door.
Three weeks apart, I don't try to remember, but forgetting is hard. A lonely apartment thirty meters away. Tangled thoughts of you, where can I talk them out? In a dream tonight, by the moonlit window you stood in shadows; shining tears revealed your face… Another short day and long night.
Friday, April 1, 2005
I couldn’t believe what I had heard this afternoon. You asked me out on a romantic adventure to Wahata Beach this coming Sunday. This is not an April Fools’ joke! I know that you have discovered the depths of my love for you.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
I got a final notice, which said that I would be flunked if I failed to submit a poem for my make-up mid-term exam. I finished my poem, Calliope and I in Harmonious Rapture, before midnight and emailed it to placate my bitchy teacher.
A choir in the sky, garden in the sea, lark in my chest. An island in our bed,
throbbing agony caressed by your hand. Moans and pain born to your laughter, raised in your tears.
Time and silence. Clocks ticking.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
As I passed by John, he gave me a wicked smile and shouted out, “Watch the teeth!” Before I could throw his head against the wall, I was stopped by my teacher. All of my classmates were stunned. Throughout the rest of the day, no one dared to say anything in front of me. Sarah phoned me at night, and I didn’t answer the phone but immersed myself in reading Notes from Underground and The Collector.
Sunday, May 8, 2005
Joe took Mary out to dinner at the Family Plaza and gave her an expensive Mother’s Day gift. I stayed in the room and studied for other mid-term exams. I knew I was on verge of academic dismissal and tried to force myself to care.
Wednesday, March 18, 2005
Clocks ticked, time did not pass. The sun rose, then set in the shadows. Clocks tick.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
This afternoon, I was sitting alone by the window, looking out at the maple's branches gracefully swaying in the breeze. Out of nowhere, I felt the stab of a memory: you waving me goodbye.
I balanced on that memory, the universe hanging on the branches.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Now I am recovered from that sickness and aspire to BE A WRITER. I just emailed my Creative Writing teacher The First Touch of Love as my make-up final exam.
Mount Yangming at dawn the scent of plum blossoms across our path
I was three years old the first time my family brought me to tour Mount Yangming. While they were immersed in the scenic view of lush greenery, I focused my attention on a little stone by the side road. “Oh, look ! This pretty pebble!” I exclaimed or I had been told that I said so. My mother repeated this story to me in varied versions on many occasions, particularly when she wished to make a point about how easily amused I was, or to remark on my ability to find joy in small things.
When I try to think back on this incident, I cannot remember any of it. There are no photographs or home videos recording that moment. I have no means of verifying whether or not this story is factually true, except through my faith in the eyewitness account of my mother.
I have heard this story so many times that the experience has become an inseparable chapter of my personal history, which experts refer to as “autobiographical” memory. To me, it is no longer important what actually happened, what the details of that moment were, or if my actions were misconstrued or reinterpreted through years of hindsight and recurrent recollection. My sense of self incorporates this story as if it were true.
Pacific shore… I skip a pebble across the water
Mt. Yangming is situated in the north of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. It’s internationally known for its natural mountain streams, hot springs, waterfalls and forest parks. It is the first place Taipei residents would think of when stressed out or longing for relaxation.
I love the essence of this. Wabi. All the memories frozen in the past, suddenly right there in the present. A family reunion or class reunion, mixed with all sorts of people catching up on their lives. Constantly, we are able to bring the past into the present, but never the other way around. Yet in revisiting a place, people, family a little touch of the past is always right there with us. Once fields of farmers and fresh veggies, were cleaned, precooked and defrosted to save, time—the word time, past, present, saving time are all food for thought. Sorry for the pun!
Some haiku please us from the first reading. Some beckon us to move beyond limits we’ve assigned to what constitutes “proper” English-language haiku. Some explode into our consciousness with all the stunning beauty of the first blooms of spring. And some do all these things and more. Chen-ouLiu’s is one of those.
At first reading, I loved it. Then I questioned my response, asking, “Doesn’t this break a whole bunch of Haiku Rules? Isn’t this metaphor? Is it gendai? Am I supposed to like this as much as I do?” It seemed daringly outside my comfort zone. Then I simply let it take me into a world that was at once surreal — and so real.
Whether a moment such as this triggers the memory of a loved one (a metaphorical tap) — or, for just a split second, we forget and turn, expecting to see them there — I trust many of us have experienced this. It is a moment as filled with poignancy as this poem. We are literally touched at the deepest level — with inexpressible longing — and with a jolt of such joy mixed into our sorrow we can only feel blessed.
In Chinese and Japanese literature, the butterfly was long used as a symbol of a departed soul. Chen-ou has taken the idea that the departed are still among us and found a very new and touching way of expressing this idea that we can only manifest by feeling. If you have ever stood under a tree as the petals drift down you will know how very light this touch is. And yet you can feel it and it seems a blessing.
To make the leap to thinking it is the touch of a departed friend is genius. This is why we need poets - to discover such truths, ideas, concepts. If we could remember that the touch of every blossom, the wetness of a raindrop, every glint of light was a reminder of the departed who surround us, how much more meaningful our lives would be. How much more reverence we would have for the simplest thing. This is why we have haiku - to remind us of profound ideas in simple things.
The association between the sadness of a friend who passed away, and the blossoms which are also passing is clear. Yet out of this sadness Chen-ou has found a ray of pleasure. He is not alone. His friend is close enough to touch him as are all our beloved departed. This is a very beautiful haiku and well-deserving of all of its honours.
My book is now available through Lulu.This collection of short poems is filled with themes of immigration, learning English, racialized identity, and a poet’s life struggles.
Following the Moon to the Maple Land
My book (First Prize Winner of the Spring 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) is now available through http://www.haikupix.com/ You are one of the most lyric haikuists in our worldwide haiku family. You have the gift of tugging at our hearts. I can see why so many of your haiku have won awards. -- Neal Whitman, renowned American poet
Ripples from a Splash
My book is now available through www.lulu.com [Liu's] haiku resonates the Asian spirit, and makes use of aesthetics in a continuum of time that is permanent and impermanent; the process more important than the subjective specificity of object bias found in most Anglo-Western haiku like poems. His poetry demand to be interpreted by the informed reader. They do not tell all, are not based on an “aha” moment, and have no definitive ending. More importantly they give meaning and voice to the unsaid, the magic inherent in Japanese poetry. -- Poetry Review by Robert D. Wilson, Editor-in-chief of Simply Haiku.
A New Resonance 7
A New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku edited by Jim Kacian and Dee Evetts. I'm featured in this anthology and have 15 haiku included in it. This is the seventh volume in a series that has won the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Award in each of its first six appearances.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chen-ou Liu (劉鎮歐) was a college teacher, essayist, editor, and two-time winner of the national Best Book Review Radio Program Award. In 2002, he emigrated to Canada and settled in Ajax, a suburb of Toronto. There, he continues to struggle with a life in transition and translation. Featured in New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, and listed as one of the top ten haiku poets for 2011 (Simply Haiku, 9:3&4, Autumn/Winter 2011), Chen-ou Liu is the author of Ripples from a Splash: A Collection of Haiku Essays with Award-Winning Haiku, Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize Winner of the 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest), and Broken/Breaking English: Selected Short Poems. His tanka and haiku have been honored with 49 awards, including Certificate of Merit by the Tankagendai Corp, 7th International Tanka Festival Competition, 2012, Tanka First and Third Places in the 2011 San Francisco International Competition, Grand Prix in the 2010 Klostar Ivanic Haiku Contest, and 特選 (Prize Winner) in the 2010 Haiku International Association Haiku Contest.