The Peregrine Muse

Poetry of Changming Yuan

                                                                                    Zhangjiajie photos at bottom of page...

Will to Allen

After I die, Son

Wrap my body with my poems

Put all my remains

In an e/cask, and send it

To a site that will

Never be on hiatus

By burying me online
You can readily
Trace my soul travelling
From one living screen
To another
As long as you have access
To the virtual space

               Note: Under my influence, my 15-year-old younger son Allen Qing Yuan

               not only enjoys reading poetry in his spare time but also has written

              and even published some poems without my help.

Nine Paradoxes: A Word-for-Word Autobiography

Born to a homeless family from one of China’s poorest villages

But now living in the richest area in the world’s “most livable” city

Used to be considered a quasi-dumb boy incapable of talking

But making a living by talking myself to death for most of my adult life

Failed to pass every English test in a remote Chinese high school

But now holding a PhD in English from a Canadian university

A laughing stock because of my bad compositions in teenager years

But now having achieved my family, career and other stuffs through my writing skills

Always living like a puritan doing everything possible to maintain good health

But now seeing doctors everywhere for some genetically-carried on diseases

Desired to live a high profiled life as a political leader

But now living as a totally marginalized recluse

Published hundreds of poems in as many journals in 15 countries

But never won a prize to win over an established book publisher

Dearly loving my family, my country and my fellow humans

But never experienced a sense of being ever loved or even liked by anyone

Possessing a supposedly strong character with a high IQ and EQ

But could not even find a decent position in either Asia or America


A few evenings ago, a monk in orange

Came to pat on my left shoulder

Identifying me in a muted group of

Stranger pilgrims journeying to nowhere

As the one having a doomed heart

Beating like a horse wildly running around

On a clear moon-cleansed night

And assured me I could definitely live

For at least another five years

But no more than ten or nine

The next morning, I conveyed this truth

To my wife, who readily shrugged it off

As just another quasi dream of mine

But I took it as an oracle or miracle

Because right then I became a Buddha

Flying over the Pacific

From Vancouver to Shanghai

I lost an entire yesterday

From Beijing to San Francisco

My son gained a double today

As we keep flying across the globe

We find our tomorrows

Will never be the same

As between the east and the west


When a deer was born

The sunlight thrilled the whole forest

When the idea looms

What view? A volcanic island

Will be the newly-formed
Mirage. With a morning glow
Trying to land
beyond the mindscape

Stairclimbing: Another One-Act Play Poem

scene i [on the main floor, in front of the elevator, right at midnight]

A: How come the elevator has never come down?

B: Probably out of order, again?

C: Why not just climb the stairs and go home?

D + E: Good idea, Bro!

scene ii [on the 20th floor]

B: I am tired of slogging up this stupid stairs.

C: Me too, especially with all this damned luggage.

D: How about putting it here? –we can come down to fetch it when the elevator is okay tomorrow.

A: You can say that again.

scene iii [on the 40th floor]

C: Totally exhausted. Wish to have been waiting down there like all other folks.

D: Why the hell did you suggest climbing all these fucking stairs?

E: Why the hell should we have agreed to do this most stupid thing in the world?

A: Anyone got a bottle of water? Dying of thirst here.

B [to himself in a low voice] I got half a bottle, but I myself may need it later.

scene iv [on  the 60th floor]

D [breathing hard]: I wonder, how many, more steps…to go?

E: Too tired, to climb, another level…

A: Got to take, a good break…

B + C: whew, whew…

scene v [on the top 80th floor]

E: Finally, finally, here we are. Who got the key?

A: I don’t…

B: Left it in the lugguage.

C: Mine also down there.

D: Jesus Christ!

Poetry Penning

(for Charles Bukowski)

Poetry penning has to be the saddest damned business to do today:

You melt the letters with the best ingredients you have

Your boldest blood, your tenderest tears and your saltiest sweat

Every piece uniquely heart-made

Packaged with the purest silk of your soul

And priced far below the cost of the little fire in your body

But you can sell it for not a single cent

Indeed, only a few tribesmen and tribeswomen caring most about this archaic trade

Might come and take a casual look

When it is marked ‘free’

Like some utensils in a used box put on the road side

Oh yeah, with more wordsmiths than wardwares

More wardwares than hawkers

More hawkers than patrons

How can you expect the miracle of a market niche

For this sad damned business

As more and more patrons turn to raps, heavy metal music

Soaps, chat rooms, computer games, virtual sex

Hot dogs, chilled beers, pot or marijuana

That can entertain every nerve ending

The human body may or may not have besides the mind

So, if you must pen something

You’d best try a story, a screenplay, a slogan or even a spam

What I say is, pen pal

You may well pen anything

But for Christ’s sake

Not this crap

The Making of a Best Poem

A: a worthy arrangement of worthless words
B: a public print-out of private puzzles
C: a rational repetition of random ravings

A: mailed from a good address, better school-associated
B: including a good bionote, better award-winning
C: signed with a good name, better recognizable

A: received by a well-circulated magazine
B: read by a well-connected editor
C: recommended by a well-established publisher


A: the magazine is in the right need
B: the editor is in the right mood
C: the publisher is of the right kind


A: published in the perfect year
B: included in the perfect section
C: presented on the perfect page

A: selected by a poetry lord, somehow intrigued
B: voted by an expert reader, somehow over-reading
C: chosen by a guest editor, somehow idiosyncratic

Rhapsody of Night Sky

A cosmic mirror

      Smashed into small

And bright dots of light

Most of them become

So stained with time

Until darkness grows

      Thick enough to glue

Earth with heaven

      With debris possessed

Still glistening high above

Among hardening silences


Between the spring breeze

      Brushing its green signature

On my forehead

And the winter frost

      Putting its fluffy seal

    On my naked chest

Is thus painted my whole life

      On a single rough page

    No thicker than a maple leaf

Imperial Impressions: A Record of My Trip to Las Vegas

07:38am    Through Peace Arch

    even a titan would strongly feel dwarfed

    the moment he crosses the broad border

12:07pm    At Sea-Tac

    sorry to have forgotten to remove my shoes

    to help make this only superpower a bit safer

19:56pm    In the Strip

    every angle offers a memorable photo for the camera

    as each building defines magnificence in its own way

22:22pm    On a Stratosphere Bed

    with fragmented dreams festooned with golden foil

    no poetry can be conceived above slot machines

Double Solitude

if i go hiking all by myself

i would be like a dying elephant

withdrawing from his travel group

to hide its own body in a distant limberlost

if i go to disappear in the heart of the forest
i would act like a living human being
trying to go hiking all by himself
along a much less trodden trail

both with too much loneliness

The Portrait of a Young Mountain

when I first see you

you are nothing more or less

than a muted mountain

      massive, mighty and monumental

a solid thesis statement

made by mother nature

then you seem to grow

      slimmer or slenderer

than your true shape

as I try to translate

both your body and spirit

      into an antithesis of artwork

with my brushes and palette

to authenticate your whole being

i look at you once again

      and find you no darker or brighter

than what you exactly were:

      a muted mountain

a simple synthesis

of you and me

Temporarily Floating

You are the opaque bait

He has put on His hook

To be kissed or swallowed

By certain unknown fish

Many trout are swimming around
You have no idea which one of them
He intends to take out of the stream
The only thing you hear is His laughter
Echoing along the tightened line

Collage of Voices

...did you

did you sight that

    last night

a miraculous mirage

    of sounds without bounds:

mishmash, hodgepodge-

      jingling, jangling

    tingling, tangling

chitchat, ticktack

      clink clank, claptrap

    riprap, syrupchirrup

hubblebubble, hocuspocus

like a symphony of cacophony

      a cantata by the dead

all woven into a fine line of the mind

    or a colored call

        did you hear that?

Buoys: 40 Maxims/Paradoxes/Redefinitions

                    Forty years of age means no more bewilderment.-- Confucius   

    1.    There is light in every dream we have in darkness.

2.    Pleasant or painful, all experiences are as good as cash saved for a long rainy day.

3.    The meaning of life, if any at all, is to create a meaning for life.

4.    All human relationships are merely a matter of words: the situation is always determined
by how, where, when and what words or nonwords are uttered by whom.

5.    Money is as much a number-play to the rich as a death-dance to the poor.

6.    A house for sale is never a home, while a heart unoccupied is a hotel for rent.

7.    Freedom is the thin distance between the fleeing mouse and the chasing cat.

8.    Love may be 99% honey and 1% money, while marriage is definitely otherwise.

9.    True wealth is measured by the number of times you say no or take a shower.

10.    Birth throws us out into different times whereas death recalls us back into the same place.

11.    One most rewarding self-entertainment is masturbating with the idea of death.

12.    Those who carve their love on their chestbones often fall in love with those who throw their
love together with their used lipsticks or handkerchiefs.

13.    This is not simply a grammatical game of changing the voice: every man loves a woman,
but a woman is not loved by every man, and et cetera or vice versa.

14.    Many still very much alive are stone dead; many already stone dead are still very much alive.

15.    There are almost as many animals that have taken off their human clothes as humans that have put on their animal skins.

16.    Comedy can come without romance or finance, but tragedy has to do with either or both.

17.    Growth is painful because it means a series of deaths of our pasts, while death can be pleasant
because it may result from a series of births of our presents.

18.    Misfortune is a peculiar privilege.

19.    In memories, roses always look fresher, while thorns less sharp.

20.    What we see or read has always been so edited that the truth remains only in the mind of history unwritten.

21.    You may have everything except disease or nothing except money.

22.    Humans are different from animals in that they wear garments, build walls, tell tales and eat each other.

23.    Remaining an outsider can give you a sense of superiority, transcendence and peacefulness.

24.    Every life is a work of art; however, not every work of art is a life.

25.    Only those determined to reform others can hope to be reformed.

26.    Art is a bizarre business of dying there or living forever.

27.    He is happy who is not afraid not to be rich, sexual, famous or powerful.

28.    Do some deep thinking about nothing every day, and you will stay healthy, wealthy and wise.

29.    We all have some questions for heaven, but heaven always remains silent.

30.    In this age of information, we are all fish swimming freely before the net is towed onto the boat.

31.    With the whole world becoming so crowded with salespersons, it is high time to invent
new alien buyers for our hearts and souls.

32.    Good writing comes from the proper author from the proper place.

33.    Political correctness means to see to say nothing as if it were news.

34.    Democracy is a government of, by and for the few most manipulative.

35.    You may have as many futures as new beginnings, but you can have only one past and one present.

36.    Wisdom and religion are different in form but identical in essence: while religion is a ritualized social practice of wisdom, wisdom is an art of staying happy without having to be successful in a social sense.

37.    Many stars have already died long before their light reaches our eyes.

38.    Schooling is either an interruption or an intervention of learning.

39.    Mask is the only garment that will never go out of fashion.

40.    Like god who invented man to expel him from heaven, man invented money to drive himself to hell.

Chinese Chimes: The Confession of A Calendar

It all began with an animal race Emperor Jade called to amuse

himself and his earthly subjects...

yes, i admit betraying the cat as my only close friend
but i won the race, with my head rather than my legs

to honor my contract with the yellow sun
i eat green grass, yet give red meat to man

as the only feared king of the thick jungle
i am afraid and tired of my own timidness

with my cagey ears held so high
i will not miss a sound of peace

although my portraits hung lively above the clouds
no human eyes have ever seen my authentic being

the moment i sloughed off my old slim self
i forgot ever seducing any manhood in heaven

my body looks more masculine than a strong man
and my heart feels more feminine than a tender girl

when i bleat towards the passers-by
i never mean to speak in an other voice

each time i try to find any lice in the corner of my mind
i act like the humans outside the fence with barbed wire

with my wings plumed with the feathers of night
i can not fly but to crow loudly towards dawn

given my canine camaraderie and pack mentality
i feel at home before, among or behind soldiers

i spend all my lifetime wisely
to guard this single moment

Spring Sleep

between padded sheets
        i envelope both
my senses and soul
        and stamp my naked body
with a gear-edged dream
put into the big mailbox of night
and send my suppressed self
        far away from home
to a strange place

Message Unsent

for five million minutes

                        that is almost ten long years

i have neither seen your silhouette

nor heard or heard of your voice

but in the closet of my heart

i have been dusting your name

my most pleasant pain

and my most painful pleasure

for myriads of moments to come

                        be that as long as ten thousand solid days

i will never seduce my hand to reach you

nor even to search your silent site (if any)

yes, it is enough to simply assume

                        we are still in the same world

                        although a whole universe apart

                        your home remains in my soaked soul

                        and my soul remains your humble home

Ready for Retirement

no, no, a yard sale though
i have been putting up here
since the sun started to sing
but really i am no salesperson
by practice or profession
not even for a single day
(yes, just a loonie for that)

neither because it is beginning
right to rain or light to refrain
nor becasue i have sold out
all my priceable stuff
(no, this one is almost brand new)

but before the curfewed curtain falls
i need indeed to retreat
to the backstage of my life
where i can finally take off
all my clothes, masks and socks
to continue my boyish dreams
to be a poet, painter
or trumpet player
before i go to bed in my home
(sure, take it for free

     --if you really like it)

Name Changing

confucius once said
if the name is not right
the speech will carry no might
so my father created my name
by rearranging the sun and moon
vertically and horizontally
to equip it with all
the forces of yin and yang
dispersed in the universe

since i became subject
to a totally different grammar
all people have complained
or made fun of my name
so harsh and awkward
they conspire to seduce me
to adopt a familiar name
like michael in the mighty dialect

but to retain the subtle balances
in the wild world i wander
to hold my father's sunbeam
with my mother's moonlight
i fiercely refuse to change it
even though i often feel lost
when the sounds i hear
do not sound like my name at all

Human Culture

when i wake up
and open my eyes
i see all my dreams
bounced back from the frames

when i take a shower
and start to sing
i taste my song tart
behind the blurring curtain

when i strive to step
out of my humble house
i feel fences quarrelling hard
in the whole neighbourhood

when i visit around and
do some blind sightseeing
i smell blood stained
along the castle foot

finally i flee from this world
and hide myself far away
i still seem to hear
the glaring cries from the great wall

delicately hung is this earth
a bluish cage in the universe

Allenian Dragonmania

my younger son is the greatest fun
of dragons i've ever known as a chinaman
he could lecture hours nonstop
on various dragons' magic talents
he often insists that in his own room
everything is transformed from a dragon
once he asked me in loud resentment
why he was not born in the dragon-year

on a shiny night with his little might
allen shrieked all his way to my dream
confused, confounded and horrified
before he told me a fantastic tale:
a real living dragon in its authentic form
had thrown a visit through his window
confessing behind his mind's curtain
it had been deeply touched
by the tremendous tenders of affection
my son had made to him in private

China Charms: At Zhangjiajie

Slim, tall and sedate
In the fluffiest garments
Of no human design
Each hill stands like a female model
Trying to display her charm and dignity
As if in a grand fashion show or
Like a fairy maiden at a casual party
Lost in a game unknown to passers-by

Amidst the morning mists
Flirtatious expressions of summer hills
I indulge myself in fits of a lover’s impulses
To give every protruding rock a dry kiss
And every slender tree a huge hug

I cannot help feeling deeply embarrassed
When my allen asks: What are they, dad?

Photos taken during my trip this summer (2007) -- Zhangjiajie is a world
heritage park according to UNESCO, about 400km away from my hometown.

Changming Yuan, twice Pushcart nominee and author of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009) and Politics and Poetics (2009), grew up in a remote Chinese village and published several books before moving to Canada. He currently teaches in Vancouver and has had poems appearing in Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, Cortland Review, Drunken Boat, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine and nearly 250 other literary publications worldwide.