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.”