For Bernice Bing

Excerpt from “Koan (for Bernice Bing)” written and performed by Genny Lim; accompaniment by Del Sol Quartet.

The Last Hoisan Poets and Del Sol Quartet presented a live poetry and music performance in conjunction with the exhibition, Into View: Bernice Bing on Thursday, April 20, 6:30pm at Samsung Hall, Asian Art Museum.

Featured images: 
Bernice Bing in front of Dark Angel painting, approx. 1959–1961. Photographer unknown. Photograph courtesy Estate of Bernice Bing. Special thanks to Lenore Chinn.
Self Portrait with a Mask, 1960, by Bernice Bing (American, 1936–1998). Oil on canvas. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Gift of the Estate of Bernice Bing, F2020.25.1
Bernice Bing in her North Beach Studio, circa 1961. Photo by Charles Snyder. © Bernice Bing Estate


For Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Jack Hirschman

I am waiting for the war of the worlds to be over
and for the proclaimed virtues of Capitalism to
expand eligibility to all tiers beyond the ten percent
I am waiting for this pandemic of violence to surrender hatred
to death and for the first cherry blossoms of spring to amass its beauty
and banish the sinister hands that chopped off its beloved branches
I am waiting for Jack and the rest of my white brother and
sister beats, Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac, Whalen, Kaufman
Di Prima and Ferlinghetti, to howl in unison from wherever streets
they happen to be inhabiting in the six realms or North Beach
where poets spring out of cafes like Dungeness crabs from dark nets
at the bay waters of Bohemia where I was born next door to the old
Intersection of the Arts on Union six blocks from City Lights where
I spent childhood days reading Zen and learning insurrection from
poetry that rescued me from the banality of conformity and nationalism
I am waiting to be inspired by the living and not the dead but
the dead seem more alive than the living these days
I am waiting for the eight immortals like Lu Dongbin and Cao Guojiu
to awaken me from the stupor of quarantine so that I may search
the elixir of truth at whatever cost
I am waiting for the day when the sun will burn the consciences
of ordinary minds and ignite the flame of love in their hearts as
the ultimate act of patriotism
I am waiting for Chinatown to rise from its shadow of shattered
windows and rusted woks to savor my first bowl of jo wonton mein
like a phoenix rising out of the comic strip pages of Old Master Q
and Lou Fu Zhi to set the world right and stomp on the corpse of
ignorance with my dragon thunderbolt and lasso of fire
I am waiting for the day I stop being invisible
and start being seen for who I am
I am waiting for all the gung-gungs, pau-paus, brothers and sisters
to stop being murdered and attacked by random xenophobia but
I can’t find the strength because a breaking heart makes no sound
I am waiting to catch my breath because English words keep slipping
and spitting racial epithets behind my back in broad daylight as if
I couldn’t hear, as if the dust blowing from
the brutal wheels of life could crush time

Copyright 2022 by Genny Lim

*gung-gungs– grandfathers
pau-paus– grandmothers

Monk’s Advice
with Tantric Commentary

For Thelonious Monk (Oct. 10, 1917-Feb. 17, 1982)

A note can be small as a pin or
As big as the world.
Training the mind in the Great Way
requires a good ear.
Just because you’re not a drummer
Doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
There is never any time to spare!
It must be always Night,
Otherwise they wouldn’t need lights.
See the brightness, when there is no light.
When you’re swinging, swing some more.
Let everything go.
The fruit is beyond all hope and doubt.
Play the Melody.
There are no words to express it.
Like a dewdrop on a blade of grass.

Copyright 2022 by Genny Lim

The Journey

Though we cannot be together at all times
May the blessings of our ancestors protect us
Though we cannot change the path of
The sun or the moon
May we persevere in this place of
Wind and darkness, like the cuckoo
Who returns from far off lands
To sip the fruit of liberation
How joyful it would be if I could see
The faces of my children, radiant as stars!
The pursuit of freedom is filled with hardship
To persevere through life is a struggle
Sorrow is the immigrant’s fate
His gift to the fellow beings who come after
Is the truth of freedom, that powerful
Illumination that bright, clear light that
Cuts through the ignorance of
Hatred, fear and injustice
The spirit of hope and determination—
That is the immigrant’s sword to
Dispel the darkness of the world—
The spirit of change and transformation
That is the immigrant’s dream
To end man’s inhumanity to man
With tolerance and compassion
With equality, peace and love
The ultimate revolution

Copyright 2017 by Genny Lim

–The concluding poem in Within These Walls, performed by Lenora Lee Dance at Angel Island Island Immigration Station in 2017.

Prayer for Jasper

In memory of Jasper Wu

Fog embalms I-880
In burial gauze that
Shrouds your dimpled cheeks
Frozen out of time
But you are still alive
Dreaming you are superman
With your proud muscles
Invincible to the tricks of
Scary monsters
If you return now
Your mother can stop
Burning incense, paper money and
Ghost palaces for your afterlife
And your smile will rise from
The ashes of your picture
In time for your second birthday
You will awaken in time for
Another spring with plum blossoms
Billowing over sidewalks as you push
Through the hourglass of childhood
To forgive the world its darkness

Copyright 2022 by Genny Lim

Genny Lim reads “Prayer for Jasper.” Copyright 2022 by Genny Lim.


Sweet river of night spill over the bay
With your bright red, orange flames!
Let the blood of paradise scorch the roofs,
tree tops and our desperate hearts!
It’s no illusion, the city is on fire from within
Kwan Gung, God of War and Poets,
after your star-hopping binge with
the Cowherd’s daughter,
Please beg King Yan, the God of Death
to postpone destruction
Put on trial, mankind’s failure to end war and
disaster should result in a murder conviction.
If the snake and the peacock can bury the hatchet,
one crawling on his belly unable to see the light,
the other rising to heights without self-reflection,
buried in bitcoins and profit margins with heads in sand
there might be accountability in this story
of two worlds, history and allegory.
But poetry isn’t poetry and words aren’t words
A pigeon pecks at crumbs of meaning in
a homeless camp, where a dog sleeps by
a woman in a bed of cardboard and dew
A block away, Chinatown takes off her dress of
corrugated metal and plastic like a
rejected bride ashamed of her body
There must be a truce in the city
The sounds unleashed in the throats of
chickens about to be butchered and children
masked and shuttered behind sobbing walls
should break the heart of any soldier
Lights from the empty offices of skyscrapers
flicker like stars through the fortress of illusion
I hear a mother’s heart beating in me
There must be dreams for the sky to become real
There must be a boat for the wind to carry memory
And a god to whisper the names of the dead
to whom death means nothing
Sweet river of night spill over the bay
with your bright red, orange moon!
I am still here. It’s a new year
It’s no illusion, the city is still here

Copyright 2022 by Genny Lim

Genny Lim reads “Myths”

The Remembered

We dream of the forgotten
at daybreak when we return
to our dream of living and
their faces brush our lips
in a flash of recognition
We dream of the forgotten
whose skin tickles our pores
whose footprints backtrack
to the cave of memories where
the bones of misconception
feed on the dust of dreams
We dream of the forgotten
inhaled through our cells
inhabiting our blood and
migrating through the veins of
our reinvented selves as we
give birth to ourselves
the way widows give love
a second chance
We dream of those we loved
of those we didn’t, of those we
only knew in brief or in passing
relegated to the obituary of
discontent and discarded in
the makeshift memories of exile

Copyright by 2013 by Genny Lim

Genny Lim reads “The Remembered”

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