Micro Prose: Two Pieces by Karen An-hwei Lee


The summer equinox is upon us in late June – per diem chimera

of circadian day and night, equal in duration. A young man with a
degenerative condition wishes to try a head transplant. No, his head
wouldn’t be replaced by a new one: on the contrary, sewn to a donor.

Yes, cast off this adipose suit, acquire a new one –

slough one’s prudish birthday suit. No, he’s not falling in love at first
sight. Yet some of the most gorgeous women in the world, who suffer from
body dysmorphic disorder, wish their bodies were not theirs.

If not in our heads, where do real versions

of our sylph-like, abled bodies exist?

Pray for electric-arcing nerve synapses, for a blood-vessel sewing
machine, for venous flutes of anesthesia, for an operating theater clean as
a ghost-ship kissed by ball lightning. Is this cloud-based thinking?

In fact, the machine is a series of ligating clips. Yet the vessels are
surprisingly long, as if God drafted a love story of one sentence using
scarlet-colored ink, looping the fates of an unrequited third lover, chance

encounters, and serenades of the star-crossed:

a matter of head over heart, or vice versa.


Fire or ice, speculates Frost, while astrophysicists hypothesize the
universal endgame: our red giant sun, auditioning for dwarfdom,
vaporizes the world. Our universe implodes with non-granular dark
matter. Our universe cools until we freeze over and explode.

I forget the fourth way.

So it goes, I imagine: exploit raw ore and fuel reserves, so on, aquifers
rarer than salt mines, than coal or silver. Engineer feasible ways of
desalinifying seawater, yet fail to resolve our racial tensions: we are
minimally tolerant or inept at love.

Narcissism prevails, dear millennium. Should we use voice analysis

for egos prone to ventriloquizing

their vanity?

And say if the world is a fishing village abandoned at the mouth of
a river. Economic crisis? Earthquake? Bandits? Tsunami? A plague of
heartbreak, an epidemic of unrequited love? Vines camouflage the
verandahs, rattan furniture, mottled stairwells ruined by fog and brine,

gunpowder ingredients of a love story set in a graveyard –

ash, petal, bone, sulfur, charcoal, mortar, saltpeter.

If I fly overseas to this village, if I sit in roofless phosphorescence to
await the implosion of our universe, toes of seaside ivy would caress my
lichen bones with congenial silence, levitate me with a lushness of ash no
less tender than disintegrating nets of grief tossed at sea.

Out of this sleep, I’d arise to light without blindness,

a tea-stained moth born without eyes

orbiting the room.

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. 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. 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, she serves as Full Professor of English and Chair at a liberal arts college in greater Los Angeles, where she is also a novice harpist. Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Photo by Yale Rosen

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