ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Barn Life" and other Poems by Pui Ying Wong.



                                    after Anna Kamienska

At that time sunlight wormed
through the door
apples rotted in the wheelbarrow
cellars reeked of dank earth     motor oil
someone was given dark’s little sweet
someone mourned
a clock struck     fender-benders
At that time rifles leaned against the wall
fire roared in the pit     the stew thick
the sound of chains dragged across the floorboard
someone tried to rid a thorn between his teeth
someone shivered someone fanned the fire
coal sparks flew     winter over
At that time air soured of pickled cabbage
sweet with fried dough
it was still a holiday     berries reseeded
someone painted the mountain stream
a little creek     mist in the valley
the moon swelled
someone shouldered a pickaxe
and stumped about in a bear-like gait
At that time trees fell upon trees
peat on the ground spongy
like an old marriage bed
wild turkeys dashed across the yard
someone said a blessing     then the trigger
someone cut open the pig’s stomach
and shoved the yams in
At that time everyone ate under the stars     
the fire flickered
children danced on the table top
screaming for the clapping to stop




December’s sharp air in the nostrils,

mist sticky as the anteater’s tongue.
Boats clanging on a smorgasbord

of waves, their oars clasped together
like closed wings. Afar,

the island rises like a megafauna,
lights faint in-and-out of the shadows

resembling cat’s eye, or pearls
on the nightstand. Nothing is placid

except us, soon to be walking away.




First metaphor some say
has outlasted its use same way
they say about dreams and I suspect
they have not seen how it works itself
in the dark allowing just a hairline split
of itself slowly hacking the horizon
so that it bleeds into the sea like dye
until the sea too is full of life
regardless of what gives the future




Sometimes in the wee hour a dream comes,
giving back what you have lost:

the color of the room in your childhood,
the chug-chug of a train that is forever arriving,
the face of your beloved—
pained and proud, 
rousing you from stupor.


Pui Ying Wong was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of "Yellow Plum Season" (New York Quarterly Books, 2010) and two chapbooks: "Mementos" (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and "Sonnet for a New Country" (Pudding House Press, 2008). Her poems have appeared in Boiler Journal, Gargoyle, Prairie Schooner, The New Poet, The Southampton Review, Ucity Review and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the poet Tim Suermondt.
This is her first appearance in Offcourse.

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