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This poem is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.

Chinese Character Alex Houen

'I shall consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner as though I were
concerned with lines, planes, solids' (Benedict de Spinoza)

'whose any mystery makes every man's
flesh put space on;and his mind take off time' (e.e. cummings)


8. Meeting you repeatedly at the Rivendell Child & Adolescent Unit
I came to see that every statement has the voice of an 'it' lurking in it.
Over a stretch of eight years I heard my words talk me into shapes
Of conversation all about us - usually scraps, ragged as the torn sky-blue
Paper ones which made up the acrobat of Matisse that hung on your wall.

When on a ferry, stare at the swirls of wake, then at the metal floor beneath
Your feet. The floor swirls. As did the leather-covered floor of your room.

7. Often when we met, that acrobat looked to be over everything in there -
An unfinished jigsaw of mourning. And you; you carried off such a gentle air
Of being a third person, with your wool ties and Humphrey Bogart features.
There was also something snowman about you, if a snowman is snow
That's content to stand for things that are out of its hands, like sun.
...


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