A Selection of Poems

By

Ken Chamlee

Poetry from collections

ZODIAC

Dragon.

Between bites of Kung Pao chicken

I study the placemat menagerie, fold

my tail out of the aisle, huff smoke

through cavernous nostrils.

Eccentric and passionate, I sort

sugar packets from Sweet ‘n Lo, know my kiss

stuns like a spoonful of mustard.

 

Your life is complex. 

In an earlier dynasty, I wed another Dragon;

we ended dueling flamethrowers.

Marry a Monkey or a Rat late in life.

The Monkey I loved was married

and the Rat proved herself, so now I break and open

a fortune: “You will soon create a favorable impression,”

though not on the woman who saw me drop

a tongful of foo yung in the Happy Family.

Her glance skewered me. Again: “You will travel

far and wide, both business and pleasure.”

I swing my scaly neck from the booth, rise

over barrows of gold plate, cowed villagers,

torching the odd haystack, my glittering tail

the green scythe of morning.

 

Avoid the Dog.

 

                                                         -published in Kakalak 2007

SIGN PEOPLE

All torso and angled appendage,

their disc heads float

on thin rims of collar.

 

Black-and-yellow tenants of the school zone,

faceless loiterers at crosswalks, at least

their lavatory cousins are gendered:

the males’ four blunt limbs,

the females in bell-skirts

with their perfect posture.

 

How unlike us, these shadows

of caution and propriety, presuming to lead

without feet, hands, eyes.

 

 

                                                                           -Published in Runes: Signals

THE MOON’S FACE OPENS IN SONG

Stars are dragging webbed chairs toward the campfire of her voice.

Clustered under quilts, they sip from plaid thermoses

as marshmallows flame and fall. Bellowing old camp songs

they pitch their voices higher on each chorus

until they have sung all the songs they know.

 

One old star, around since the beginning,

uncorks a jug of shine and pours some

into a leaky dipper. “Have you heard,” he asks,

“why the moon never shows her backside?”

 

“Do not tell that story,” the moon cautions,

but the old star winks, takes a long

draw from the jug. “Was this young comet

came through here once,” he drolls

and settles back to tell.

 

 

                                                                            -Published in Kakalak 2008

GOLDFISH DIARY

Mine is a small

round duty, a patrol

tight as lighthouse

stairs, routing neons

hourly from this plastic

castle. They think

their quick transparency

hides them, but I

see their true colors—

electric jazz and

flash, that’s all—

garish as the rainbow gravel.

 

And what reward?

I am barely remembered—

an occasional shake

from the can while

they shuffle the bookshelf

for mislaid keys

or the small paddle

of buttons they wave 

while eating from  

hinged boxes or papers

bright as a Yellow Tang.

 

When they settle,

less mouthing occurs.

Pat as a pair

of bivalve wings,

they stare into

the flat tank of flux

and color, blink

now and then,

but no bubbles.

 

 

                                                                        -Published in Main Street Rag  Winter 2016-17

©2019 by Ken Chamlee.

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