Eve and other poems
By Ng Yi-Sheng
In the belly of earth, the cosmic mother:
ageless, eyeless, cuntless, mad,
feeds and floats in a bubble of fire:
magnetic birthpangs cause the tides.
Has no hands to grip the knives
and lotus blossoms of her nightmare;
has no feet to stamp the filthy,
haloed, demons at her breast.
Has no children. Only we, her acolytes,
bodies pressed against the world,
listening breathless, horizontal,
for her voice.
Madonna Enthroned With Saints
Dammit, he’s crying again.
Does he want milk or a wiping?
Is he frightened?
Jerome, chain your lion.
Lucy, stop doing that with your eyes.
Is baby bored?
Catherine, will you let him play with your wheel?
Vitus, dance for him.
Augustine, have you any nice stories in your book?
Still he’s screaming.
Magdalena, have you a sedative in your amphora?
No, I’ve changed him already.
The smell is from John the Baptist.
Thank God, it’s dying down. Everybody,
take your places.
Straighten your croziers and your haloes,
no-one stand too close to Sebastian,
Denis, pick up your head.
Come on baby, smile for the photographer.
See how he’s waving the Holy Ghost?
Lord, let’s try and look for once like a happy family.
That god were the Eskimo woman
you saw on Québec television.
That god might throw my cetacean body
on the kitchen table of a gloomy studio.
That she might begin to slice, and speak
in thirty-two syllabics to the camera,
leather face and bare hands speckled
as a white cloth between bone and blubber.
That after two hours, god might have
ten meals of lean and gizzard.
Thrusting up to the dirty lens
twin goblets of my tusks,
cat’s cradles of my innards.
That god might rise
to show the stool beneath,
bound with my shrivelled nerves.
That god might roll the credits,
standing in my own red water.
That god might mop, switch off the lights herself,
go home to her igloo
only on weekends. Tonight, to her government flat
of a thousand screaming grandchildren.
Tonight she changes channels, grumbling
when everyone speaks French.
Tonight, she watches her reruns,
eating my eyes like popcorn.
I think the Messiah will come like Cortés,
against orders from the crown, sailing tall ships
to Earth, and playing her petty factions
He will descend in his glittery spacesuit
on a velvet gangway of tissue lilies,
stopping to high-five millenarians
in feathered hats.
Behind and before, a sea of gunmen,
ready to kill for the kingdom of god
and a handful of beads.
Up to the mike and a sea of recording angels
(yes, the apocalypse will be televised).
There will be a girl,
on a parallel podium, a castaway princess or slave,
who translates Nahuatl/Enochian,
and does not seem to mind
the touch of his leprous-white skin.
The gilded city at its knees,
the last baptisms of the Jews
in a sea of blood.
She will bear him a child
in between teleconferencing Gog and Magog
he will bear the name
of his other one-begotten-son,
East of Eden, in the arms of a seraph,
whose stretchmarks fan like a carven star
from her absent navel.
Counting the seals by the heat of the burning codices
and syphilitic flora, the messiah will lie,
half-nude, chewing wine and wafer
in his harem of acrobats and albinos.
The sound of a trumpet and he will marvel
at this brave new planet, his for a thousand,
at the odd new taste of his body,
still fresh, like murder upon the tongue.
Pan Gu’s eyes
Venus de Milo’s arms
Winged Victory’s face
Van Gogh’s ear
Francis Xavier’s hand
Zheng He’s cock
Tin Woodman’s heart
Little Mermaid’s voice
I am not man, not woman,
and not bird, never child,
nor ancient, given dignity,
unlike my chubby
brethren, of four limbs
and torso: now I lift
one leg to skate upon
a cloud into
the painting’s corner,
bearing what is
balm or locusts
in my cup, that nearly
spills when down below us
breaks a cry of someone
or another, late
forsaken: with due speed
I might descend, para-
chuted by my caftan,
but this gravity unnerves
me: neither flesh nor
spirit, I might lift
my other leg, discover
I am vacuum.