Blindness and the Dialogical Imagination

I ask a blind woman three questions. 

Without hesitation, she paraphrases Stein – I say this
            only to God and strangers.

Where does your language exist?
                        In the spirit realm – a gift of discernment.                                                      

What is the unknown history of your words?           
                        The charismata of wisdom in asterisks.

Who else dwells in the space of your voice?
                        Tantum Christum no one else.


Of Rosa Chinensis in a Fire Alert

                        Your azaleas flower in winter.
Santa Ana winds raise a fire alert –
                                                 red martyrs on stakes,              
           slain winter blossoms, our floating chapel. 

Blood-roe western light in the hills
                                    could signal new fires.

Four o’clock, a January magnolia awaits 
                                               a jeremiad of woe.
Ranunculus post-twilight,
April iceberg roses.  Northling envy:
            bone-colored Rosa chinensis in winter.

                                    No pruning until August,
no dead-heading blossoms.  Sphagnum
dry moss – your light-haired face: 

                                                Eucharistic prayer
aflame.          In a drought, I wish to say, sepal. 
Calyx sheathed in November                        
                                         mouthed as saint
in three languages –

            el santo, thánh, and xianren
fireball, cotillion veil:  December moonlight 
            in green ardor – verde, xanh, lu.


Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo Press, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo Press, 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande Books, 2004), and her work has been awarded the Norma Farber First Book Award. She earned an MFA from Brown University, and a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, she lives and teaches in greater Los Angeles, where she is a novice harpist.