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By Pey Pey Oh

after Pablo Neruda, XVII from Cien sonetos de amor

I do not love you as if you were the rasp of heat on my shoulder blades
            or the endless cicada song in the night.
The humidity is as strong as a hand over my mouth

            I would lick the salt from.


I do not heed the call of your secrets, as if from a distant city
            with its lure of neon and sweat.
The loneliness of 2am stalks me,

            dark doorways with rusted postboxes.

I do not find hope from small altars on cracked pillars,
            the burning spirals of incense do not carry
the whisper of my prayer between us.
            Fire everywhere, wicks flare on oil and wax.

I do not visit my ancestors bones to hear the chanting
            of monks kneeling together on the marble floor
or to see the temple snake dazed by smoke make prophecies,

            lowering its double eyelid and tasting the air.


I do not love you as if you were a mosaic of dragons
            or those filial tales on florid tiles.
Distant hills call me to dusty steps of duty

            winding around the tall spire.

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