Horse Horse Hyphen Hyphen

By Marilyn Chin b. 1955 Marilyn Chin

Border Ghazals

I hate, I love, I don’t know how
I’m biracial, I’m torn in two
Tonight, he will lock me in fear
In the metal detector of love
Rapeflowers, rapeseeds, rapiers
A soldier’s wry offerings
He will press his tongue
Into my neighing throat
I can speak three dialects badly
I want you now behind the blue door
In a slow hovercraft of dreams
I saw Nanking from a bilge
Some ashes fell on his lap
I’m afraid it’s my mother
The protocol is never to mention her
While we are fucking
The bad conceit, the bad conceit police will arrest you
Twin compasses, twin compasses cannot come
Your father is not a car, not a compass and not God
Though he vanished in his sky-blue convertible Galaxy with a blonde
He kept crawling back to us, back to us
Each time with a fresh foot mangled
One emperor was named Lickety, the other named Split
Suddenly, the soup of chaos makes sense
Refugees roaming from tent to tent to tent, looking for love
The banknote is a half note, an octave above God
O the great conjugator of curses: shit, shat, have shut!
I have loved you both bowl-cut and shagged
There are days when the sun is a great gash
Nights, the moon smokes hashish and falls asleep on your lap
Sorry, but your morphing was not satisfactory
Shapeshifter, you choked on your magic scarf
I heard this joke at the bar
An agnostic dyslexic insomniac stayed up all night searching for doG
The prosperity sign flips right side up again
The Almanac says this Ox Year we’ll toil like good immigrants
Horse is frigid. Mule can’t love
Salmon dead at the redd
One leg is stationary, the other must tread, must tread, must tread
The Triads riddled him, then us
What is the heart’s past participle?
She would have loved not to have loved
I bought you at the corner of Agave and Revolucíon
You wrapped yourself thrice around my green arm and shat!
A childless woman can feel the end of all existence
Look, on that bloody spot, Chrysanthemum!
Shamanka, fetch your grandmother at the bus stop
Changeling, you are the one I love

Marilyn Chin, “Horse Horse Hyphen Hyphen” from Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Copyright © 2002 by Marilyn Chin. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: Rhapsody in Plain Yellow (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Marilyn Chin b. 1955


Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Couplet, Ghazal

 Marilyn  Chin


Poet Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Oregon, in the U.S. Northwest. A noted anthologist, translator and educator as well as a poet and novelist, Chin’s work distills her experiences both as an Asian American and as a politically attuned woman. Her poetry is noted for its direct and often confrontational attitude. “The pains of cultural assimilation infuse her…poems,” wrote Contemporary Women Poets essayist . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, War & Conflict


Poetic Terms Couplet, Ghazal

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.