"An image of the moon is less true than the moon itself": Three poems by Richard Oyama

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"An image of the moon is less true than the moon itself": Three poems by Richard Oyama

Poetry by Richard Oyama

Always an Arch

'Outside the arch there seemed always an arch, beyond the remotest echo a silence.'

—E.M. Forster

What is beach but exposure of meat process—childhood, ripeness, decay.

Is their genius, therefore, knowing happiness each instant?

She stretches like a splendid leopard in a Rousseau jungle, bare thigh raised.

She issues forth in song at the drop of a hat.

Wood swallows swoop and chitter like bats, waltz of the dusk.

The air is lucid in Prachuap Khiri Khan and Lisbon.

These are our sanctuaries, ‘preservation areas’ as if for langur monkeys, against a particulate thinner than hair that infiltrates the blood.

Blood moon patina on limestone.

An image of the moon is less true than the moon itself.


The Crystal Spring

For Bill Evans

You bend your back parallel to the keys
Like Glenn Gould. Critics called that eccentric.
Who doesn’t want to be inside the music?
Miles thought it was Evans—you, Gil­—they credited.
It was your sin to be an intellectual among the booboisie.
Still you squeezed the plunger like Bird did.
You made sumi-e, the saddest music of the world. You
And Miles were brothers sans skin, imagists
As limpid and exact as you were. Your life was
A diminuendo, a dying fall, a crystal spring.
You always flew solo.

Elmore James Outfoxes Old Scratch (1955)

That cold December night the hawk blew.
Elmore was mad as hell.

Damned television. I
Play the blues for my own self.

Tears drain from his mouth’s coarse grain.
How does the skin contain so much feeling?

Elmore’s fingering a genuine bottleneck,
Its lip broken. He slicks the grief that bedevil him.

Old Scratch’s a trickster.

He tastes the metal of blood on his tongue.
I’ll taunt the Devil.

Believe I’ll dust my broom.

This the wolfish hour. Everybody’s abed, ‘cept
Hoodoo ghosts.
Elmore slides the high strings, his life

Hanging on it. He sees the future and rips it up.
I believe my time ain’t long.

Hell’s a country where not a damned thing change.


Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, About Place, Malpais Review, Anak Sastra and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has an M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

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