Two Poems | Jeffrey Yang |Granta

Two Poems

‘Or am I geography? A look? A groove or notch in the Wood?’ Two poems by Jeffrey Yang.



Or am I geography? A look? A groove
or notch in the Wood? A wisp

of kemenyan? Rama and Sita?
Gendang gamelan? A spice?

That I am a civilization

as it was thought before, a race,

or a religion? Adab rites
in relation to the trees?

Custom of silver or silk?

No written records, no ruins
—People of the Wood—
No nation diadem, no interface

Along the fossilized tracks
through the karstic hills
where what vanishing happened

Facing the forest rhinoceros, the tiger

Sea routes open, bestirring winds

down from the Archipelago of Samui
toward the Crater and Hydra high in the sky

Somewhere between Kelantan and Songkhla
around Saiburi, the two ports of Suvarnabhumi
to the double gates, towers, and pavilions

Fields of rice on the alluvial plains
Remnants of levees, earthwork ramparts, outline
of moats
Some coins: Arabic, Chinese, Sassanid silver
Setback raised bricks
torus thick, found
linga and nandi

Or am I aromatic woods? A dance? Kuda Kepang? Silat
step? Nadaswaram and thavil? A gong? Am I sanctuary?

called awan larat: wandering cloud spirals
called gunungan: stupa mountain peak
called mata hati: inner eye that guides

the soul, more than ritual or tradition, being
alive to sweat, to difficulty, more than breath

Wayang, shadow and image

play, speech unpeeled








Flowers and Leaves in the Wood
Bunga and Daun in the Kayu

Kala hidden in the Wood

Punca rahsia source
of seed and learning

Semangat in the Wood
spirit of life, indwelling life-force,
mineral soul

as a lover’s drawn to her beloved
as rock’s long dream, water’s
sleep, night
bloom of daun bakawali

What vitality binds a universe?

Hayseed in the Wood
Been Sprout in the Wood

Pucuk paku fernshoot, eye-
lash fiddlehead curl

weeds and buds, creepers and wind-
blown tendrils, claws of aloe
telepuk water plant

Makara in the Wood:
trunk, goat
horns, boar
tusks, heron
neck, crocodile
body, fish
tail animal spirit

Vahana for Varuna and Ganga

on perahu boat and door panel
on window lintel and gate handle
on hilt to lotus leaf wings

Flames in the grain, marks
ingrained through the long art

Nik Rashiddin, master woodcarver:

We must think of Langkasuka as the current of a spirit,
a landscapea constant reference, a marker, a presence
. . .a pledge to the ancestors, a promise to nature

A translation
A nameless name


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