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Biography for Amphibians

Harnessed moon enchanting nostalgic armadilloes
Clipped tongue erased ornaments flooded sky 

Immobile rhizomes sheathed in herbaceous ferment
I am a prisoner of a table of contents never released 

The sky is a tin cup sending signals to its children
A cellophane candle sifting through stammering husks 

The real voltage is still hiding behind the illustrator’s eyes
According to the uniformed woman at the passport bureau 

I was probably born yesterday
shortly after a warthog managed to drop me 

beneath the effigy of a photograph
I am sitting on a book of codices and partly drawn curtains 

Most of my limbs have had to be recalibrated
I was invented in the mouth of a receding phantom

which is why my hair is the color of an extinguished wish
According to the alpine clock mounted on City Hall 

that crayon dunce cap decorated with crepe paper bells
a secondary character is evincing sympathy 

while I am trying to extract the logic of my name
from embers deposited in the fur of this festive prose 

I am not sure when I lost my first plural
in the housing projects of the future perfect 

or when I began looking up
the pastimes of my ancestors

Didn’t you threaten to name me

after the ditch beneath your windows


John Yau has two books forthcoming; Ing Grish from Saturnalia Books, with drawings by Tom Nozkowski; and Andalusia, with art work by Leiko Ikemura, from Weidle Verlag, Bonn, Germany.


John Yau


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2005

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