Monsoon History by Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Selected poems with an introduction by Prof. Laurel Means
(Skoob 1994, 173pp., pbk £6.99) ISBN 1-871438-44-6
from Womens Dreams...
I cannot praise you too little:
You are nothing much.
When I look around to gauge
With a computing eye
Each one, the computer-heart
Registers prices: dollars-
And-cents, plus minus-status
Taxation. In air-conditioned,
Musicd, lit, white supermarket,
Chattering with the coiffures,
I am an elegant starling
Coxcombing the alleys.
Separated by glass, they beckon
Strangers from the sidewalk. Angular, thin;
Who love them are women. Reflection
Of Narcissus clothed in perfection,
A power invites us in their trance
Of shape; rosy, life-sized, and kin
To the alien whose strut and prance
Parade even in the sexual dance.
Image of surface, they are not filled
By others; mindless, breath cannot kill.
In that shared conception, we
Also study their perfect circuity.
from A Life of Imagination...
An Immigrant Looks at Whitman
Something wonderful and different
Might turn to memorialize
The wide water of his death.
Second death. There are earthquakes
Daily. Bombs go off and little-
known shop-girls are blown away,
Chin off, legs off at the knee.
The major prophets gazing upwards
Saw celestial maze, dark redoubts,
Not the saw-whet owl or long
Purples deep in marshes.
But, for you, bring golden pheasant,
Goldenrod, my Asia, my America.
I fish in the Great Lakes inwards,
Forsaking gods for leeches and wild pansy.
He always liked mirrors,
Painted them blue, yellow, green,
With glitter, panache, with sheen,
Like liquid turning to ice,
A cold slick of something
Substantial and reflecting.
He put corners on them,
And frames. Squares and rectangles,
His mirrors were windows.
Standing to one side, on an angle
Of vision, he glimpsed numerous
Folds of the world, unseen
Himself. He painted nothing
But mirrors and filled his house
With reflecting canvas.
He could not step through them.
extracts from Monsoon History...
I am afraid to study
Any more the past,
Breathing slowly along
The nervous edge of crying.
All things bring me back
To this small place
Of pity and terror
Which so encircles me
I cannot run. Seeing
There is no place,
It is best perhaps,
Entirely, to disappear.
When I was a child, I would watch the spray
Break phosphorescence at my feet then run away.
There was so much sea, always rhythmically
And gently pulling to the horizon.
There was the enormous starry clarity
Of sky and, sharply, carried upon
The breeze, the smells of pines and salty sea.
It was a childs preoccupation
To stare at the yellow coin of moon,
To crumble pine needles between thumb and finger,
Not thinking anything particular, to linger,
Watching the trees bend in the wind, sea dance,
Till you knew it was time to be home soon,
And straightaway left with no backward glance.
Ó Shirley Geok-lin Lim, 1994.
SHIRLEY GEOK-LIN LIM, Professor of English & Womens Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, was born in Malacca, and her work reflects both her Chinese-Malaysian heritage and landscape of the United States. She received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature form Brandeis University and her first book of poems Crossing the Peninsula (Heinemann, Writing in Asia series) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1980. One of her short stories won second prize in the 1982 Asiaweek Short Story Competition and appears in her collection of stories, Another Country (Times, Singapore, 1982). She has published another two volumes of poetry, and has edited/co-edited The Forbidden Stitch (recipient of the 1990 American Book Award), Approaches to Teaching Kingstons The Woman Warrior, Reading the Literatures of Asian America, and One World of Literature. Her most recent book is Nationalism and Literature: English Language Writing from the Philippines and Singapore (1993). Writing South East/Asia inEnglish: Against the Grain, a focus on S.E. Asian English-language literary criticism has been published by Skoob in tandem with Monsoon History.