Desmond Kon

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé divides his time between his art and teach­ing cre­ative writ­ing. A recip­i­ent of the Sin­ga­pore Inter­na­tionale Grant and Dr Hiew Siew Nam Aca­d­e­mic Award, he has edited more than 10 books and co-produced 3 audio books, sev­eral pro bono for non-profit orga­ni­za­tions. Trained in pub­lish­ing, with a the­ol­ogy mas­ters from Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and cre­ative writ­ing mas­ters from the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame, he has recent or forth­com­ing work in Black­bird, Cop­per Nickel, Cricket Online Review, dead­pa­per, Dear Sir, Ganymede, Pank, and The Writ­ing Dis­or­der. Also work­ing in clay, Desmond is presently sculpt­ing ceramic pieces to com­mem­o­rate the birth cen­ten­ni­als of Nobel Lau­re­ates William Gold­ing and Naguib Mah­fouz in 2011. Works from his Pot­ter Poet­ics Col­lec­tion have been housed in muse­ums and pri­vate col­lec­tions in India, the Nether­lands, the UK and the US.


hsuan tsang before the tak­la­makan desert

That was a way of putting it – not very satisfactory:

A periphrastic study in a worn-out poet­i­cal fashion,

Leav­ing one still with the intol­er­a­ble wrestle

With words and meanings.

          ~ T. S. Eliot


as let­tered as song spar­rows, fine­spun but ambiva­lent, purl­ing rune, verse-love-elegaic

let­ters, ring­ing bells pealing-bowling-tolling, over-diatonic, drop­ping from belfries

a bunch of let­ters homophony-unwrapping-polyphonous; more becom­ing, becalming

as let­tered as dash-of-love dreams, the scrunchy unscripted curves of them; they knell

slow, only let­tered stubs of per­mis­si­bil­ity but not clar­ity, not token, soft-shod monody

as let­tered, like some­one else and his par­celled ideas about someone-else-especial

as a let­tered dõgen inhales carbon-copy scru­ples, never sound changes, or cedar oil


there are noth­ing but sutras every­where in time and space; some­times sacred letters

are used, some­times pro­fane let­ters; some­times divine let­ters, some­times human

let­ters; some­times the let­ters of beasts, some­times the let­ters of ashuras; sometimes

the let­ters of a hun­dred grasses; some­times the let­ters of ten thou­sand trees*


yet let­tered to cura­to­r­ial peo­ple dou­bled over in tracts, their inscribed, stolid podiums

as pasty; noth­ing let­ters what it seems, like rifling-trifling words split into infinitives

and super­nal let­ters; they vac­il­late them­selves, planate-unrest, periphra­sis ill-at-ease

as let­tered as their flam­boy­ance let­ting us hide, let­ting go; we seek iliadic-baneful signs

ker­nels anew as let­tered this vanilla mid­note; I am such rest, the painful rest of it too

such serial-story cal­lig­ra­phy finely let­tered, like love-in-waiting draw­ing likes as red

morn­ing of herons as let­tered as it is watery, dis­avow­ing, surg­ing alka­h­est in hallways

as let­tered, me beyond my own instruc­tion, con­tent as con­tu­sion art, euphony combing

still let­tered, can’t he see? I don’t instruct my art nor its lost parts and whis­per plains

these belles-lettres scarcely ciphers; tidy dais yet ochre-known, con­duits so recondite

these belles-lettres unearthed that bless today of our sud­den star-turning, ter­rene days

its let­ters as wrapt, happy-as-filigree trap­pings, us in puji si, whet­stone and greying



* This verse has been lifted from a cita­tion of Dõgen by J. P. Williams in his book on apopha­sis. Of Dõgen’s ideas on the use of sutras, Williams writes: “Thus we see that the inef­fa­bil­ity of real­ity is not a ques­tion of there being no words we might use to describe it, but rather that there are no words which would describe it completely.”