John Yau

Biography for the Birds

Lipstick-smeared clouds wrapped in rain
Dormant devotion leaving its destination

I was conceived in the belly of a motorcar
Driven out of heaven by swift angels

My mother stored her clothes in a guitar
Where cows slept beneath yellow apple trees

There was a wagon covered with farms
Sinking into a thick wooden sky

A forked tongue of soot brought more news
From black rectangles chewing in silence

There was a coffin gilded in a silk tunic
There was a bell crammed with warm eggs

I was born at the threshold of golden seaweed
Entangled in memories of a drowned face

Toads restored the ceiling of translucent oxen
Blooming in the middle of a white portico

Successive waves of umber grunts
Lovely without melody or kneeling hisses

I was not the worst of the petals
Battered down by spring’s melting kisses

There was an alarm for bedlam clutching
A photograph packed with trickles and salvage

Amber interior ember lips overhead gap
I was born without an introduction

Near the state bakery laments emigrate
Ciphers cruise sheetrock slogs whiskey





Standard Preface

On a crude woodcut of a heavily laden wagon
Pulled through the air by a string of grinning demons

On a neighbor’s sneeze invading the depicted scene
On strange representations buried in secret treatises

On a necklace embracing rainbows and settlements
On this ladder leaning against heaven’s deckled edge

On a chair placed before a burning lion
On the morning when fires become more argumentative

On feeding the correct books to riverbeds and tornadoes
On this landscape where shadows have never appeared

On tracing a face encased in a pyramid caked with salt
On overturning a tripod and its four-legged attendants

On incredulity, misfortune and enthusiasm
On discarding gods, contrivances, and transparent methods

On sand where writing is completed by prosthetic limbs
On a caterpillar groveling outside the gates of paradise