The Somnambulist, Age 4 by Yim Tan Wong

Cut loose from a clock’s single chime,

she is a barefoot jockey, a silver medallion,

an Olympic swimmer, wading night’s onyx

wilderness. Walking the lunar beams,

she is an aerialist, balancing herself

with a comet’s icy tail. Also, a peripatetic

psychic, saddled to June’s constellation

Scorpius, whose stars scratch like stubble,

whose pincers will pinch her awake

as their antennae beep and translate

alien electromagnetic waves.

Knocked over by unfamiliar edges

of sand, shell, water, and echoes landing

like slow motion cormorants, knocked over

by the sweeping alertness of lostness,

she sloops in the direction of the first

hollow, where the first sound

rode a pictogram out of the silent

phalanxes, escaping the brainmaze

once pictures and moods found sound

to slip off the tongue past the teethgates.

Flatfooted, she has never talked or walked

in one direction at once.  There’s nothing

to do but radiate, until a father materializes

on the shore. His irises cabochon, his voice

so muscular, it lifts the ocean off its floor.

I’m going to beat you to death,

shouts he like a gun aimed at its game.

For her, death means floods, typhoons

asplatter with gorgons, boils, and boiling

water; death is when her father cuts

himself, and blood blossoms like red petals

dropped into doomed dunes of cubed vegetables.

The sea splashes death to death to death.

She sees white, goes ghost, goes deaf.

Every hero and menace in the sky—

A Huntsman, Night’s Watchman,

Orion’s Sword, a Scorpion’s Claw, they

all throw weapons into the coliseum fray

as she rides a hard-shelled back, galloping

back into the dark center inside the dark.

Image by: allthecolor

Original by: Sarah Wampler

Yim Tan Wong graduated from the M.F.A. program at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, where she was a teaching fellow and received The Gertrude Claytor Poetry Prize.  She has been a Kundiman Emerging Asian American Poets Fellow and currently supports her writing habit by working a steady job at a Boston hospital.  Her interviews, articles, and poems have appeared in City Magazine (Roanoke, VA), jacket (Australia), Crab Creek Review, Crab Orchard Review, Packingtown Review, Santa Clara Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others.  “The Somnambulist, Age 4,” strolls through her first full-length manuscript (currently looking for a publisher), a series of poems that serve as sleep and dream study reports.  Meanwhile, Yim Tan has begun writing her second book in conversation with the paintings of Rene Magritte, the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the metaphysics of Arthur Schopenhauer, and whomever else she meets along the way.