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Nothing in the cry of the cicadas  Suggests they are about to die.  ~ Basho


✵ Orient ✵ Ten Poems by Christopher Younkin


CONTENTS Author's Introduction i


How existential I am, experimenting with giving up. I am harboring pretense. Am is the present tense of be. Am implies a current state of. Am I being? Not that it matters. I fake it 90% of the time. I don't know anything about statistics. I hate this kind of self indulgent writing. Writing without purpose. Writing is my purpose. Writing because I am not good at anything else.


Farming Myself This ground is fallow, now. I squat, boot heels to haunches, scoop a palmful of dust, release it to the air. Nothing's left but dead weeds bent by ghosts of snow. In this drought I brush the dust from my hands, bend under the heat. My rows are straight, running west to east. Long ago, this place was wild with vegetation. I walked the paths of deer and rabbits. One morning, a man passing on a nearby road stopped, called me over and said, finger tracing the horizon, "This is fertile land. Plow it under, grow corn, and you'll be rich."


First Poem For My Dad I've waited until now to write, when I've burned my anger down to ash. The fire that flared when adolescence piled on broken branches. The coals where burning red and hot when God first sent my daughter here to me. Your vacuum heart had left me ill-equipped to give my love in any manly way. And now I have a son who looks to me to be the man my mother couldn't make. The manhood you displayed, that lay inert, as cold and gray as ash, remains in me. So, empty as you were of manliness, the kind that brings a son into your arms, I turn my reaching arms to Christ, the Man, to follow Him in His true, manly ways, His perfect love and readiness to weep, To comfort and to serve His fellow men. His love is all I know of fatherhood.


Mother and Son How could she know her son's deep pain, his longing for affection unrestrained by a homophobic culture's scrutiny? How could she know her son's desire for a father's love unmediated by heartless jock aggression, brutal American machismo?


Duck Saying "Quack!" It wasn't famous work, drawn by my five-year-old daughter on the whiteboard in our kitchen. The body was a circle, its bill two lines converging at a slight angle, just breaking the circumference. Its eyes, two dots in the center. At the bottom, two legs bowed back then down, ending in two zig-zagged feet. No wings. She drew a word bubble in front of it, larger than the duck. It said "Quack!" I knew it was a duck because it said that, though it resembled a small, wingless bird.


Orient A copper bowl, circumscribed with etched lotus petals and Sanskrit, rested on a circular silk cushion at an import store. A mallet leaned in the bowl, cylindrical and wooden. What is it? I ask the young woman behind the counter (she smelled like patchouli). That's a prayer bowl from Tibet, she said. Set it in your palm and strike it. I held and struck it. The bowl rang a clear high tone, vibrating into my forearm. She said, The bowl is use in Buddhist ceremonies, but it's also good for holding change.


On Humid Air a cherry blossom pirouettes & lands in a man's sake laughter bursts from his mouth


Poem Written on March 11, 2011 Earth convulses at the resonant frequency of human architecture eats itself and burps devastation unconscious unbuilding continuing its endless cycle of entropic renewal debris of the built bobs and burns on a wave of black water swallowing a city news helicopters record the erasure while America changes the channel to disaster films horror films crime dramas romantic comedies nuclear cooling towers explode I've seen this before in a movie CGI a fiction no horror rupture broken syntax contrived by the imagination of a poet can encapsulate tragedy express devastation poetry is the distillation of language language is humanity's greatest failure how can I write poetry after the tsunami


Half Empty Most days are a loaf of Wonder Bread—the quantity of empty space Revealed when compressed.


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