Four Poems by Karen An-hwei Lee

Dear Millennium, on the Nine Orders of Angels

Never easily recall the names, dear millennium, 
                                                of nine angelic orders –
first, ophanims in ocular celestial wheels, 
                                           ablaze to the unaided eye,
or else too close to the fire to see a forest aflame, 
                    blinded in a mentholated sequoia grove.
Second, who are the virtues – 
                                                celestially distinct 
                                from angelic hosts, third?  Seraphim, 
archangels, fourth and fifth.  Do you recall?
A dyslexic girl says,
                                     No-name angel at a taxi corral
rich enough in rags, hatless, without a suitcase, 
shone with a clean jaw.
                                                      I offered every penny
out of my purse.
Blessing me, he vanished, coins 
                                spinning light in light.  O heal me.
On God and the Hydroponic System
1. In this millennium, we say, cloud-based
for an empyrean of shared data. 
2. Engineer of everything, God sees us 
                err in the same faults over and over 

on a disrupted shore of consciousness,
soul-engine wherein a weight is lifted 
                                                through the heart.
In blindness, we do not confess our sins,
will not even circulate in recycled water  

or say yes
to yield – or combust.
Hydroponically speaking, we cannot engineer
a system of grace on our own,
                                as an act of our will.

God is a hydroponic engineer who aerates 
                      heads of butter lettuce
in aqueous solutions  
                                                out of nil.  Selah.
On the Proprioception of Beauty Not as Pharmakon  

On language as proprioception, or a ghosting sensation.  
                                                In other words, langue
    as embodied phenomenological experience, a glottal mesh  
          linguistically mediated.  Happiness, for instance – does it exist
autonomously, without estrogenic parole
                              in a hormonal rush of cherry blossoms? 
Say if the cherry blossoms vanish, the frothing corpus 
                                                                              disarrayed by El Ni
a tousled grove of seasonally affective moods, of absence 
                     as nonattendance or a privation of beauty?
      If caplets of pilled toxins reduce fever, shall we say this is febrifuge,     
                                         or rather, antipyretic?  Is beauty 
pharmakon for pharmakon, poison and cure?       A Quarterly with Salt, Ferries, and Light
A quarterly should vanish each season,
every three cardinal phases of the moon,
with reprints and back issues on request.
A quarterly etches a monsoon’s portfolio, tinkling brass as mini-cymbals for a band. A quarterly gladly plows up the mundane in an obituary, in memorarium. A quarterly is glued to a spine or a Japanese retchoso. A quarterly is ___.  A quarterly is bamboo. A quarterly accompanies ferry passengers.
A quarterly dispenses sagacious minerals,
sea-foam green, mixed with salt for a bath. A quarterly can be designed with glassine and wax with the engravings of a philatelist. A quarterly should offer quinks and inklings. A quarterly is not flung over the verandah.
A quarterly has a circulation of a thousand
or more.  Or less.  A quarterly eats quinces,
postcards.  Salt and light.   A quarterly  is a quarterly is a quarterly –

About the Poet

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004)winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel,Sonata in K (Ellipsis 2017).  Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, Iowa Review, and Columbia Poetry Review and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award.  She earned an M.F.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.  Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.