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John Yau reads from Bijoux in the Dark

I look forward to John Yau’s erudite—and fun to read—art criticism online in Hyperallergic, keeping me in touch with what’s going on, but I wasn’t familiar with his poetry until I ran across Egyptian Sonnet 2 in the anthology that Vincent Katz put together from the readings at Dia:Chelsea. Actually, I fell in love with the poem, and asked John if he would let me record him reading it. What follows is happily a little bit more. I was very tired the day John came over as you can see by the napkin I didn’t see to remove from the couch, and it was noisy outside with sirens so that we often had to stop, and a new bride who has just moved in the apartment above can be heard pushing some boxes around as she makes the place her own, a harbinger of good things to come, I’ve decided, when her thumps invade one of John’s poems that he reads from Bijoux in the Dark, recently published by Letter Machine Editions. Enjoy.



Egyptian Sonnet 2

A hippo sits patiently in a palm tree while a hoopoe hops up a ladder

On desert’s edge, far from flickering

oil lamps, a Sloughi plays tag with jackals a leopard herds gazelles and geese
with a jeweled flute, and a young lady rat, sitting on a pearl throne, waits

for monkeys to slide forth their gifts

A lion and a fox visit a sick ibis
A hyena stops a goose from running

into its mouth, and panthers stand petrified

in front of a white cat ambling toward the library The first idol was a goddess

with a body of a hippopotamus

Hearsay Song

They are dying out and I want to reach them before they are gone
Not that I know what I would say to them when I get there

Their songs rippling beneath temporary sky

As I approach, as I am doing now
Even though I am nowhere near wherever they are
Swirling in blossoming dust and dreaming they are not

They are dying out and I want to reach them before they are gone
Just as I want to reach myself before I too am gone

Another blossom sliding into slime

What notes do I hear drenched in fiery sky
Are these ghosts rising up before me

Or gasps of dust near a lake covered by algae

They are dying out and I want to reach them before their names vanish
Before they become ghosts dying in pink algae and ruined vowels

Not that I know what their songs say

Telling sting of monstrous human torrent
Wheeling above burning story of lost lives

Tapering branches of smoke, red and yellow leaves falling

They are dying out and I want to reach them

Before my name joins theirs in plastic matrimony

Before a blue-eyed undertaker powders my nose

Or I turn to powder in squirt gun of unprofitable insects
Secrets folded away never rinsed in scum corner

History erasing traces of its nothing new


Bijoux in the Dark is published by Letter Machine Editions. You can check them out here:

http://www.lettermachine.org/

and here:

https://www.facebook.com/Letter-Machine-Editions-157692040923343/



John Yau. Photo by Eve Ascheim

John will be reading at the Poetry Project with Brendan Lorber on May 30, 2018. Be sure to catch them if you can.

https://www.poetryproject.org/events/brendan-lorber-john-yau/


And check out John Yau’s art criticism in Hyperallergic below:

https://hyperallergic.com/author/john-yau/

One Comment

  1. Posted 24 Mar ’18 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you, John Yau, thank you, Don Yorty. Like you, Don, I look forward to reading John Yau’s extraordinary writings on art in Hyperallergic. Now, because of your posting here, I go to his poems. I mean, / Another blossom sliding into slime / and his poetics of linguissima (fricatives, sibilants et al swelling the tongue, the air itself, his fun play with . . . Now, because of your posting here, I go to his poems. warmest regards, Donna

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