Poems

KAREN AN-HWEI LEE
THE QUIET COUNSEL OF PEARS

After the storm, the world is still there, a flash
of the cottontail at dusk, the pears up in a tree
on the evening walk: every pear is one pear
from this moment on, winking, and there is
always a hare vanishing in the dark. We spiral
into the night on the arm of a galaxy so large,
it’s invisible. Every cloud is one starry cloud,
a bower of mineral, elemental dust, one pear
on a bough. I retrace my steps to gaze upon
pear bushels rolling, belling out of blossoms,
fattened on thunderstorms and light, sad light,
skins of green milk and wine, gnarled, crazy,
byzantine in leafy boughs and merrily flawed,
jaded by the darling torque of their beauty—
every pear is a morose star kissed by honey,
a collapsing spindle of seeds who ate the rain,
thunder strong after midnight when the pears
hum their luminous song, a bittersweet chorus
in praise of the quiddities of a ramshackle day,
a morning where neither foot stool nor ladder
could be found, an evening when I read, please
keep your own counsel on matters of the heart,

and hear, please keep as pears. Yes, I whisper,
the pears surely do keep their own counsel.

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of The Maze of Transparencies (Ellipsis Press, 2019), Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her first novel, Sonata in K, was published in 2017. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series, and she is the translator of Doubled Radiance: Poetry & Prose of Li Qingzhao (Singing Bone Press, 2018), the first volume in English to collect Li’s work in both genres. 

Lee’s work appears in journals such as The American PoetPoetryKenyon ReviewGulf CoastJournal of Feminist Studies & ReligionIowa Review, and IMAGE: Art, Faith, & Mystery, and she was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, Lee currently serves in the administration at Wheaton College. She earned an MFA from the Program in Literary Arts at Brown University and a PhD in British & American Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.