Laurence Li: What Is Coming Now, What Beast

August 5


Again, bikes wash down the street

Haltingly, orange-and-yellow gnats. This

Was the temple’s promontory,

A circle of roads set around the tower.

Something sounds from the temple’s light.

What is coming now, what beast

Has the nerve to challenge our ringroad’s traffic?

Well, it’s just a lantern, hanging precipitously

As a lantern does, delicate and alone.

It’s strange how objects seem to lose

The sense of place, wandering, as if they had no family

And no kin, only their color and form to guide them.


The lantern subsides in the breeze,

Resolved to mischief at some later date.

And that traffic flowing continues leftward,

The sky, grey, leaves the day.


Hong Kong Harbor


I reach out my arms to touch you, Hong Kong, magnificent city; 

As we wade across your harbor, high, in a white-domed cabin.

The faithful star-ferry dredging across the cityscape’s hazy blocks;

The pier relatively distant, dock-buildings lazily spread across the face of the sea-hill;

Such peace dwindled; the seagull had cawed again,

His sound fierce, message idling in the blue-set sky. We stood astern and gawked.

Green, shredded leaves filter through the upper-deck railings,

Left from the shoreline’s arboreal molt; we saw those oaks

Raise themselves above the lowered dock, dutifully, like brothers.


Docking in with a slight, expected shudder, the spell fell

To disembarkation. A low, iron drawbridge led us to

That salt-laced group of aged boards. With tepid steps

We broached land. How welcome, to be aground and alive.

The sea was alive. Its eddies whorled, the marina juggled crates.

Laurence Li is a recent graduate from Yale and now lives in Beijing. His senior year, he completed a poetry portfolio, "The Nixon Scenes" with Louise Glück. His work has appeared in the Yale Daily News Magazine and the Yale Literary Magazine's online section.