The Chinese Chamber of Possibilities

by Allen Cohen (1981)

I think of the Chinese poets-
their ambitions and longings
amongst the bamboo groves and mountains
in service to the emperor and in exile,
the temptation of Buddhist quietude,
the Mongols at the frontiers and
the traditions of society and poetry
imprisoning and ennobling them.

Sitting in the Owl and Monkey Cafe
watching the rain and listening-
I heard that a polite man in New York city
will get out of an elevator if
only he and a woman are riding in it,
so that she will not fear being raped
in those long seconds riding up and down
in the mind's chamber of possibilities.

Jack Hirschman said to a woman
about to kiss him on the cheek,
"Don't give me kisses! Give me socialism!"
With all this violence and fear
driving us apart: separate elevators,
separate cars, separate apartments,
we will all be in exile
consumers of marvels eventually
shadows on stones.

© Allen Cohen All rights reserved.

This poem is included in Allen Cohen's newest book, "Like A Radiant Dove".