Guest Poet Crystal R. Chweh


In a Saturday moment,
the fragmented glimmerings
of rainbows
in feelings, sights, and smells,
capturing the myriad, conflicting
sensations and feelings.

Some things are preserved this way.
Immobilized, secured
the tension of a minute’s 
breakdown into seconds
of hands clicking and shaking
with violent trembling,
their violence breaking with imminent
awakens in me that catalyst
lying dormant,
lurking in the shadows of
the everpresent weight of gloom/terror
(lurking, as I said).

Why these questions?
Why these monsters under the bed?
These quiverings in our stomachs?
If I knew
I wouldn’t be able to spell them,
not write them,
not say them,
but spell them with the precision
and accuracy required for perfect

Gloom/terror, what difference does it make?
The same ingredients pour into our cars
as into our bodies.
These things we take for granted
muck about in the ordinaries 
the Wellingtons and the slickers,
the ocarinas of Butterfield Road 
and Scottsdale Circle.
They pour into us with measured
clarity, hoping for the best.
Wishing us the best for the New Year,
and for life.

I wait in the cul-de-sac,
gripping the rolled-up parchment,
the treasure map of the lost kings.
Cigarette butts tempt us, she and me,
while rollerskates bruise our knees,
over and over and over again.
The ripe strawberries glisten
on vines
at our feet.
We eat the tomatoes and plums—
all are ripe! and cold! and young!
And the sandmine dolphin waits for us,
today or tomorrow—
or in the next summer’s blinding heat.

Like the gossamer threads
of silk spun for the emperor of China
never touched by daylight or sweat,
the dress twirls in the afternoon breeze,
one, two, three.
But even ballerinas stub their bloody toes
on concrete sometimes.
Like suitcases packed and ready to go,
at a moment’s notice.
And we all have our time 
to cut out and run,
to run and never come back.
It’s time.

And the seconds have counted down,
from sixty to one to none.
It’s Sunday, 
you can tell by the tolling bells.
Things have changed so little,
the pristine states remain,
the soiled rags—still torn.
the crisp grey underbelly still waiting
for its moment of realization
like the tossed off shell of a cocoon.

May, 1998

Crystal R. Chweh's Questions:

In this poem, I try to deal with the passing of time and recurring memories. I'm trying convey a sense of nostalgia that is painful but also hopeful. What do you think about the paragraph breaks and punctuation? Are they effective? Is the imagery and progression clear and consistent? Does the poem evoke feelings/memories in you? Do you feel my frustration with and confusion about the passing of time? I'm not committed to the title. Does it seem to fit the poem?

Correspond with Crystal R. Chweh at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop