Clare Chu
December 2020
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Clare Chu was raised in Malta and England, and has adopted Palm Springs, CA. as her home. She is an art curator, dealer, lecturer and writer who has authored and published twelve books and numerous academic articles on Asian art. Her poetry is featured in a continuing collaboration with Hong Kong-based calligraphic and landscape painter, the Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat, in which poet and artist challenge and expand traditional media boundaries. Her poetry is published in The Perch, The Comstock Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and the Raw Art Review amongst others. Clare's debut collection, The Sand Dune Teacher, was published by UnCollected Press in June, 2020. She is a 2021 Pushcart nominee.

NEW CALIFORNIA

 

To the gun-store they march, all legs and death 

pressed to the pavement. Mask-less they join a line

 

that stretches ‘round the block, buying bullets 

and guns, before the dealer runs out of stock.

 

This is the new California 

where Shelter-In-Place means: 

 

take your gun apart in your garage, 

clean it, oil it, let the bullets rip up the dry dirt.

 

I would trade toilet paper for white wine, but

not for a shot at my neighbor, though the Trump sign 

in his yard shouts “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” 

 

I think maybe I should go for a hike, 

or perhaps head off to a firing range 

to learn how to shoot for myself. 

 

I make a decision, shop online, have a coffin 

flown overnight from BestBuyCaskets.com, 

park it in the garage alongside my car: 

 

a White Angel lacquered coffin with rose-gold 

accessories, an Eternal Rest adjustable mattress, 

with matching pink pillow and throw. 

 

One thing I know. My casket is breathtaking.

 

It is not a good time to go hiking. Gun-shy, 

I stay at home, follow the rules, wash my hands, 

eat caramel popcorn, wash my hands, watch old movies — 

 

my favorite is Dirty Harry, though John Wick comes 

a close second, despite the death of Daisy his dog.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MY DEATH

Open the shades. 

I want to see the heavens 

gaping though 

a sky of whitecap clouds.

 

Open the windows, 

look for a croft of swallows

sweeping over 

silver-blue waves.

 

Let me hear Elgar's cello concerto —

the 1965 Jacqueline du Pre version.

I love the dread in it, 

you love the passion —

            my elegy. 

You can dispatch me during the first movement 

before the bassoons kick in. 

 

I know what you think, 

I've always known what you think.

            I can't do this; I can't be the one,

            I've seen too much in my life for this.

 

You are the only one who can. 

 

We were of sound mind when we agreed. 

Choose the pillow carefully; I'm allergic to down 

            — but you know that. 

Not the one on the piano stool —

            too compact,

I don't want to go out with a black eye. 

 

 

Ignore my fingers 

            plucking at the brittle sheets. 

Ignore your thoughts 

            of bad karma. 

You always were a slipshod Buddhist.

 

            Don't hesitate —

you've never been one to hold back.

Kiss my forehead —

let your lips linger for a moment. 

Don't choke —

my dear, don't cry. 

 

Keep your eyes on the swallows, 

on the morning moon. 

 

I will be waiting,

and you are not long coming.