Timothy Yu is the author of the poetry collection 100 Chinese Silences (Les Figues),
which was the editors' selection in the NOS Book Contest. He is also the author of three
chapbooks: 15 Chinese Silences (Tinfish), Journey to the West (winner of the Vincent
Chin Chapbook Prize from Kundiman), and, with Kristy Odelius, Kiss the Stranger
(Corollary). His writing has appeared in Poetry, Jacket2, Cordite Poetry Review, and
SHAMPOO. He is a professor of English and Asian American studies and director of
the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA).
Poems here are taken with the poet's permission from 100 Chinese Silences.

Chinese Silence No. 20

This year July has 5 Fridays 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So copy this to your status and money will arrive within 4 days. Based on Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui. Those who read and do not copy will be without meme.
—Facebook meme

I did not copy this
so I am without money.

But that is OK.
The ancient Chinese
philosophy of Feng Shui

tells me that every 551,557,906, 200 oscillations
of a cesium-133 atom
an unenlightened soul is born.

This is called capitalism.
So every 886.245 hours
I deposit my poems

in the maw of a silent mailbox
and hope someone will buy them within 4 days.
This is called optimism.

But anyway, the ancient Chinese philosophy
of Tai Chi tells me
that "silence is its own reward,"

so I grow wealthier from rejection.
If you read this
and do not copy

you will be cursed by the words
of the ancient Chinese sage Dong Le:
"He who cannot afford to speak

must remain silent."

Chinese Silence No. 98
after Ezra Pound, "To-Em-Mei's 'The Unmoving Cloud"


The tailpipe sputtered and sputtered,
and the car stalls and stalls,
The eight cylinders of the engine
are all melted into one morass,
And the potholed road peters out.
I stop in a room at the Motel East, quiet, quiet,
I rub my belly and whine.
My friends are deranged, or in prison,
I bow my head and feel ill.


Car, car, and the tailpipe sputtered,
The eight cylinders of the engine are morass,
The potholed land looks like my liver.
"Whine, whine, hear my whine!"
I drink in Eastern silence.
I think of talking to no man,
And no goat, no marriage, reproaches.


The Chinese in my east-copied garden
are busting out with new poems.
They fill my bold new collection,
And they say my car and driver aren't moving
because they can't run on bound feet.
The birds flutter to death in my teeth,
and I think I have heard them singing,
"It is not that there is nothing in life
But we like this silence the best,
And whenever we try to speak
He says we are his to swallow."

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