‘Seeking Heaven’ and ‘A Thousand Blooms’


This is part of a series of ekphrastic poems presented alongside ‘Hyphenated’ at The Substation. Eileen Chong’s poems respond to the work of exhibiting artists Sofi Basseghi and Vipoo Srivilasa.

Seeking Heaven

And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms
swallows will make their nest.

‘Reborn’, Forugh Farrokhzad
translated from the Farsi by Sholeh Wolpé

This grass bed,
ringed by tussocks.
The snowmelt is receding.

Sweep of pebbles:
a broken wave,
milk-heavy breast.

A line of buried stones
punctuate the spine.
Dark mane, unbound.

Hands weighted
and open on emptied
sky-blue cloth, over full belly.

Press one ear to the ground—
storks cannot sing; can only clatter.


A Thousand Blooms

Look here, children—
There, by your feet,
A tiny yellow flower!

‘Don’t Trample This Flower’, Bing Xin,
translated from the Chinese by Herbert Batt and Sheldon Zitner


Little ones, let’s put pencil to paper—
draw the backyard rooster, sketch your loyal dog:
one to announce daybreak, the other to watch all night.

Let’s shape their bodies with our hands.
Let’s gouge out cavities with our fingers.
We are a hundred lidless eyes.

You there, go out into the desert.
Come back when you’ve stopped weeping.
Who shall we drown in glass today?
Who will withstand the flames?

The blue-and-white vases are broken.
They made us walk across the shards.
Our cut feet are a thousand crimson blooms.
It’s certain death for flowers without roots.

Eileen Chong

Author: Eileen Chong

Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet. Her books are Burning Rice (2012), Peony (2014) and Painting Red Orchids (2016), all from Pitt Street Poetry. She has shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award 2012, the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2013 and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2017, among others. Her next book, Another Language (2017), is in the Braziller Series of Australian Poets with George Braziller in New York City. eileenchong.com.au

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