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Urban Love Poem

Marilyn Chin’s “Urban Love Poem” is a love poem with depth and edge–but who, or what, is the object of the poem’s affection? Joined by Chin herself, in this episode we consider how the poet interweaves her own coming of age with that of a beloved city, San Francisco, as she explores the city’s history from the Gold Rush and early Chinese immigration to the rise of Silicon Valley. Adding their voices to the mix are acclaimed memoirist Maxine Hong Kingston, tech investor Randy Komisar, and four Bay Area residents who spoke with us on a rooftop in Chinatown.

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Read the Poem

Urban Love Poem

by Marilyn Chin

1)
Condominium, stiff bamboo,
refuses to bend in the wind,
squats in the sinking earth
like a thin-hipped dowager.
You arrange the amenities
and we pay the rent. So, please,
don’t fall as civilizations fall
in the comfort of night.

2)
Gingko, vomit-eater of the metropolis,
city’s oxygen, small men’s shadow,
your gentle bark can’t protect you now.
One pellicle, another, falls
on the land of your displacement.
Where is the Yellow Emperor who nurtured you?
Where is your birthplace,
the Yangtze, the Pearl?

3)
Hong Kong, San Francisco, San Jose,
the path through the “Golden Mountains”
is a three-tiered freeway. Look up:
it suspends where no prophet can touch.
A quick fix in your veins; a white rush in my mind—
you cry, “Mei Ling, Mei Ling, once
we could’ve had everything:
the talent, the courage, the wherewithal.”

4)
Oh, the small delectables of day:
persimmons from Chinatown,
a stroll through the Tenderloin
with the man I love.

My darling, please, don’t be sad.
I’ve parked my horse
in this gray, gray sunrise
to gather sweet crocuses and jonquils
for you.

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1)
Condominium, stiff bamboo,
refuses to bend in the wind,
squats in the sinking earth
like a thin-hipped dowager.
You arrange the amenities
and we pay the rent. So, please,
don’t fall as civilizations fall
in the comfort of night.

2)
Gingko, vomit-eater of the metropolis,
city’s oxygen, small men’s shadow,
your gentle bark can’t protect you now.
One pellicle, another, falls
on the land of your displacement.
Where is the Yellow Emperor who nurtured you?
Where is your birthplace,
the Yangtze, the Pearl?

3)
Hong Kong, San Francisco, San Jose,
the path through the “Golden Mountains”
is a three-tiered freeway. Look up:
it suspends where no prophet can touch.
A quick fix in your veins; a white rush in my mind—
you cry, “Mei Ling, Mei Ling, once
we could’ve had everything:
the talent, the courage, the wherewithal.”

4)
Oh, the small delectables of day:
persimmons from Chinatown,
a stroll through the Tenderloin
with the man I love.

My darling, please, don’t be sad.
I’ve parked my horse
in this gray, gray sunrise
to gather sweet crocuses and jonquils
for you.

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