Jennifer Tseng’s book The Man With My Face (AAWW 2005) won the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s National Poetry Manuscript Competition and a 2006 PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. Poems from her new manuscript Red Flower, White Flower have appeared in or are forthcoming in Cura, H.O.W. Journal, PEN America, Ploughshares, and From the Fishouse. Chinese translations of several Red Flower, White Flower poems recently appeared in the Beijing journal Dear Whistle.
I love the poets ruled by love
Who write: I am vexed to love you.
As if love is a dog that leads
Them like lambs to the slaughter.
To be a lamb for love is human.
To be a dog for love is human.
Here outside that pasture I am
Ruled by something else and yet
I love the poets ruled by love.
Please, take me to their leader.
Elegy with Red Flower
One vermillion poppy in a clover field.
Rain the field drinks you drink.
Sun that lights you lights the field.
The beasts trample you; the beasts ignore you as food.
They are like pandas who only want bamboo.
Though you grow in their sloe, cow-shaped shadows,
You will never be slung by their continental tongues,
Feel their teeth clip you like grass from your stem.
To them, you are nothing.
A failed color, a false scent. To them,
You are a clover gone wrong.
What then will devour you, who then
Will you be, here, where you have landed,
Red flower in a stranger’s green field?
“…not quite the rose/not quite the roots…” – Lee Herrick
Stem of the Hybrid Perpetual
You hold the rose aloft.
If root is a secret
& rose a prize,
You are the telling.
In you the two are sisters.
Throat of happiness,
Singer of flames, music
Of red & white, your
Pinnate leaves evoke
A strange bird’s flight.
Green road, you
Begin in darkness,
& end in light.
You touch everything.
You are the axis.
At your apex
A nation grows.
Suitor of heaven,
Child of earth,
Bearer of thorns & gifts,
You hold the rose.