Issue 22: Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

intervention art no. 210305

i.              the man’s suit is made of soy cashmere and industrial hemp.

                                he stands close to the tree, stoops to kneel and whisper.

ii.             it’s something tender, barely demonstrative,

                                an ode to an epitaph. it’s a lament about loss and death.

iii.            it’s a small tree, slender shank, mere shrub of a canopy.

                                just enough shade for his lanky frame and silhouette.

iv.             the mall rises all around me, the man says, the mall and its kitsch;

                                its irony glistens, don’t you think, blunt and flagrant?

v.              glass walls and mirrored ceilings, the man says, all readily cruel;

                                gaze at the schmaltz, gaze at the shine, the man says.

vi.             poster on lamp standard, look at these vast tracts of land:

                                cerrado, gran chaco, mekong, amazon, borneo, congo basin.

vii.             around the listed names, the white of an unused, throwaway space,

                                as if emptied out: felled trees, denuded trees, trees torn up.

viii.           all our nature is in central park, the man says; he unearths a wine glass

                                from his briefcase, and toasts the gathered watchers.

ix.             the girl has a wine glass too, loosely wrapped in a sage tencel; 

                                it’s a homemade terrarium, filled with clubmoss and variegata.

x.              look at what i made, the girl says, lifting the orb like an offering,

                                how she brings brim to meet lip, as if to drink from within.

Postlude to Some Death and Dream
of Some Pastoral Poem by Both of Us

               “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” — John Keats

dreamt this poem || into being || itself || an unfolding reel

|| strange cinema || it’s been a long time, you say || this kindness

of happenstance || entire, petal poem writing itself out || as if

from memory || memory has a staggering way with us || uncanny

with inserting presence || as well as itself || milk-white complexion

|| its authority, as always, in the details || gilded sun and bellflower

and cloudless sky || the poet had brown eyes, soft black curls ||

tousled, parted in the middle || like junipers along the timberline ||

olive trees, sudden starbursts || sandy hillside, stray tumbleweed ||

he looked sad || as if he’d lost something || satchel of holy relics

|| he looked out || vast body of water || fenced in by cliff walls ||

the water started small || innocuous, brackish pond at first ||

then grew farther || into an aeolian lake, where you stood || still ||

the sides of the pond showed || as if wind and water were scarce

|| as if it hadn’t rained || days, weeks, months, years, two lifetimes ||

the poet saw his reflection || against opacity, how his shadow turned

|| as he about-turned || the way folding panels angle || to cast light ||

again, shadows for you || and me || he turned to look at his muse

|| he knew her from long ago || in a painting || the monet or renoir

where roethke wrote || his flaming orchids, ajar as ghostly mouths ||

where wright wrote || her phaius orchids sewn into funereal garlands || 

where longley wrote || his ghost orchids bruised into surrealism ||

bakhtin was far off || the karst lake behind || clearly, she’d returned ||

pale skin, trench dress || unlike anything he’d ever seen || no memory

of their past lives together || she had his chestnut eyes, lilac in hair

|| they danced around their names || so many names, yet no names ||

the memory is fading, as is the dream || here, the vagaries of time ||

there, another tree for the hedge maze || right in circle’s middle ||

far in the distance || that was the certainty, of these terrible cycles ||

far in the distance, flattened land || and plastering of particulars ||

far in the distance, what did he and you look like, they conjecture ||

far in the distance, what did destiny suggest and intimate, after all ||

the tree was a jerusalem pine || as if brought in, just for the season ||

festal, yet sombre || stripped of leaves || naked, awkward branches

|| they looked frenetic, fraught || long arches like arms || spindly,

thread-like || as if reaching out, but reined in || how clenched ||

here and there, you say, the memories surface in slow dreams ||

here and there, you say, we dream our subdued pasts into newness ||

here and there, the past will outlive itself, find the carnivalesque||

here and there, we will be written into the present, if we will it ||

here and there, we will be written into the present, but for now ||

here and there, we will be written into the present, beyond time ||

Disappearing Acts

In absentia. 

Elsewhere, distant memory.

You are late; or a no-show, in perpetuity.

Perpetuity: an eternal waiting.

Of an abdication of being here. And now,

Of removal, slow cessation.

Remarkable, nonetheless.

A contusion, brick to the face.

The land has been stripped bare, as has the lone tree.

On this valley floor — what a vast bed, the dead sand.

Its branches like straw, thin against sundown.

Astonishing how much pain is inflicted.

Astonishing how emotions make their mark.

Astonishing, to one’s own bewilderment.

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé is the author of an epistolary novel, five hybrid works, and nine poetry collections. A former journalist, he has edited more than twenty books and co-produced three audio books. Among other accolades, Desmond is the recipient of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, National Indie Excellence Book Award, Singapore Literature Prize, Poetry World Cup, two Beverly Hills International Book Awards, and three Living Now Book Awards.

He helms Squircle Line Press as its founding editor. His quasi-memoir, The Good Day I Died, is forthcoming from Penguin Random House South-East Asia. For more on the author, visit his website

Copyright © 2019 by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.