Fathom Mag
Poem

Wiping Dust from Tassels

Feature set of 3 Poems by Jonathan Chan.

Published on:
September 12, 2022
Read time:
2 min.
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prayer (xi)

remember these chains, how these
palms were clasped above rawer
wrists. that momentary glimpse
beyond the binding of every
thought, when every day seemed
to spill beyond its bounds. how
the digital bells begin to toll
and the loving gaze beyond
a virtual stretch begins to crack.
remember the resolution of a
centering plea, enough to hold
the wandering jitters, drawn into
the embrace of all that is fully
known. remember the warmth
that shares itself from skin to skin,
the leaning into a familiar bosom.
remember the lightness of chasing
God, elusive as shimmers in a
downpour. remember these chains,
how costly it can all seem
to never again waste away. 

prayer (xiii)

in this conjoining
of rooms, i sought a 

desert, enough space to find
again a pressure on hold,
silence resting, falling on
the familiar dressing of the

dark. how tremulous,
a new guilt moving

in the curvature of stark
walls, naked in their waiting,
the rush of wind ringing and
ringing. by night i remember how

to sit alone, with
no want of partners, 

strewn bags now arranged,
books sliding down a
panel of wood, vapour swirls
dancing beneath a bedside glare. in

the stretch and swaddle
of weird time, i heed. 

prayer (xvi)

coming back into that lonely room
               where sickness can find its cage,
the downward fold of the body, the bend
               of the neck stifles a barrage of coughs,
               the obstinate scratch of the throat.

Amichai once mused of the “sharp precision
               of pain.” i remember its lexis. the pain
of drinking water, rivulets running sharp and 
               acidic, like a slow sap of fire. or how
               the stifled airways craft the triptych of

dry mouth, chapped lips, parched throat. i
               who lie soaked through in sweat: shirt,
pants, duvet. facing the chill past midnight, 
               discarding moistened fabric. i, dreaming
               of wiping dust from tassels, and walking

in daylight. Donne says, “the Lord throws down.”
               Job cries, “night pierces my bones.” 
any pain is a mite. any sacrifice is a whimper. 
               surrender is a style, a gravelly road. 
               exhaustion lurches, a pure matter

of incidence. dawn and dusk meld in shapes
               on a wall. this room is like an airborne
               cabin, shuttling through the thin tunnel
of patience. time for books that gathered dust. or
               songs suspicious of themselves. time for 
learning to speak among the pains. 

Jonathan Chan
Jonathan Chan is a writer and editor of poems and essays. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated at Cambridge and Yale Universities. He is the author of the poetry collection going home (Landmark, 2022). He has recently been moved by the work of Kevin Young, R. F. Kuang, and Alfian Sa’at. More of his writing can be found at jonbcy@wordpress.com.

Cover image by Nathan Dumlao.

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