Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language. 

Argument of Situations

by Shangyang Fang

I was thinking, while making love, this is beautiful—this

fine craftsmanship of his skin, the texture of wintry river.

I pinched him, three inches above his coccyx, so that he knew

I was still here, still in an argument with Fan Kuan’s

inkwash painting where an old man, a white-gowned literatus,

dissolves into the landscape as a plastic bag into cloud.

The man walks in the mountains. No, he walks on rivers.

The man moves among shapes. He travels through colors.

The mountains are an addendum to his silvergrass sandals.

Wrong, his embroidered sleeves are streaklines of trees.

Neither could persuade the other, as my fingers counted

along his cervical spine, seven vertebrae that held up

a minute heaven in my hand. But it isn’t important.

It is not, I said. It is just a man made of brushstrokes

moving in a crowd of brushstrokes. The man walks

inside himself. The string quartet of the tap water

streamed into a vase. My arms coursed around his waist.

We didn’t buy any flowers for the vase. It’s okay.

The sunlight would soon fabricate a bouquet of gladiolus.

To walk on a mountain for so long, he must desire

nothing. Nothing must be a difficult desire. Like the smell

of lemon, cut pear, its chiseled snow. The man

must be tired. He might. He might be lonely.

He must be. The coastline of his spine, the alpine

of his cheekbone—here was where we stopped—this

periphery of skin, this cold, palpable remoteness

I held. The dispute persisted. Are you tired? I’m okay.

That means you are tired. You’re bitter.

Whatever you say. If my hands departed from his skin,

the heavens would collapse. The limit remained

even though we had used the same soap, same shampoo;

we smelled like the singularity of one cherry’s bloom.

The vase stayed empty, the sky started to rain.

My toothbrush leaned against his.

The man must be lonely, I said. No, the mountain

is never lonely. Burying my forehead inside his shoulder

blades, the mountain is making itself a man.

Copyright © 2021 by Shangyang Fang. From his book Burying the Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 2021).

Shangyang Fang grew up in Chengdu, China, and writes both in English and Chinese. A graduate from Michener Center for Writers, he is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His works appeared in The Nation, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, Forward Book of Poetry Anthology, The Best American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize Anthology. He is the author of the poetry collection, Burying the Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 2021).

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this second year of our series is the first movement, Schéhérazade, from Masques, Op. 34, by Karol Szymanowski, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission