In This 21st Century:
New Poems by
William Marr

Presented here are selected poems written in the 21st century.
Some are translations of poems originally written in Chinese.

hoping to find something
about another world
a world beyond the range
of the most powerful scope

-- from "Stars"


(Click on any divider between poems to return here.)

Taking Pictures of My Wife and A Ninety-Pound Baby Male Panda
Cow & Cowhide
Eiffel Tower
Pyramid At the Louvre
Biltmore Mansion
You Should've Stopped There
Year of the Dragon
Making of a Poem
A Heart for a Heart
Niagara Falls
Time Difference
On the Towpath
Valentine's Day
Poem of Seven Steps
BIAN-ZHONG: An Ancient Chinese Musical Instrument Unearthed
Skipping Stones
Insomnia, Xian
The Setting Moon
A Volcanic Eruption
Words Not Said
The Filly
Ode to a Retired War-Horse
At the Flower Market
Lies, Lies, Lies
Jade Necklace
Hearing Songs from Childhood
Canadian Rockies
Neighbor's Flowers
Emergency Kit
Valentine's Day
Desert Flower
On SARS Street
To Paint a Bird
New Toys
City Windows
Two Suns or More
That Fateful Day
Paradise Lost
Songs of You & Me

Taking Pictures of My Wife and A Ninety-Pound Baby Male Panda

as if bored with the incessant flashes
he becomes restless on her lap
his sleek fur slips again and again
from her unsettled embrace

frantically I adjust my lenses
hoping to capture another image
before he sinks to the ground
or becomes extinct

Cow & Cowhide

whipping the cow
with a cowhide

an immediate

Eiffel Tower

thinking they were building again
another guillotine
merciful God swooped down
trying to pull it apart

yet its steel-reinforced base
stubborn as human sins
kept it firmly on the ground
and it was turned into a lance
pointing at the heart
of the sky

at night we can hear
grotesque dreams rise and pop
at its very tip
like balloons

Pyramid At the Louvre

the question of immortality
never crosses his mind
when he enters the glass structure

only after seeing a mummy
grin at him
from the glass coffin
does he suddenly remember
the growing long line
at the main entrance

Biltmore Mansion

"where can I find thousands of spacious buildings
to house the world's poor scholars and make them look happy"
--Tu Fu, Song of The Thatched Hut Blown Down by Autumn Wind
This mansion, more spacious than a royal palace
might not be able to house all the world's poor scholars
but it can easily make a few hundred of them
less unhappy

This morning the wind is calm and the sun bright
and these people holding tickets in their hands
with their heads high on their shoulders
sure don't look like any poor scholars to me
they move around the ornate furniture and decoration
admiring the beautiful image
of the hostess behind the curtains of time
and sniffing at the still-permeating aroma
of perfumed hair and wine and food
from banquets a hundred years ago

Besides, they probably have never heard
of the name Tu Fu
in fact they might even confuse it
with Tofu, the weight-reducing health food
also from China
* Biltmore House, the largest private home built in America at the end
of the 19th century, is situated on 8,000 acres in Asheville, North Carolina.
It has 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, 43 bathrooms, 34 bedrooms, and 3 kitchens.

You Should've Stopped There

first I see words coming out of your mouth
black words all UPPERCASE and bold
they become so dark and dense that I think they are bullets
wait a second they ARE bullets now all streaming hissing
smoking burning toward us

we scatter and run for cover waiting for something
to happen but are surprised to hear a sudden silence
explode in our ears
I look up and find you just standing there
with your mouth wide open
as if you are running out of ammunition
but from the expression on your twisted face
and out-stretched tongue there must still be
something inside that wants to come out

for a few seconds you remain in your frozen posture
then right before our eyes your body shatters and breaks up
we slowly rise and gather around
trying to pick up the pieces but find they are so badly burned
that they crumble at a touch

you should've stopped there really
before you opened your mouth

Year of the Dragon

inflated bellies
there are time bombs
busily ticking

* Contrary to Western myths, dragons are regarded auspiciously in China as an
imperial symbol. The popular notion that babies born in the Year of the Dragon
are exceedingly lucky and destined to have a bright future has caused a baby boom
in China every twelve years.

Making of a Poem

when his wife's warm gaze
turns into an icicle
he knows there's a deep freeze
on his own face

but before the bloom
of its first flower
the earth must endure
a long long winter

so he once again attains
though not without a qualm
a peace of mind
and arduously awaits
the clear and crisp sound

ice breaking brows relaxing
composedly he spreads out
a sheet of paper
and puts down
his first word


along with gravel and soil
they remove the trees
with an excavator
making the dark sky
even darker

tomorrow they will build a skyscraper
right here on this grassland
and decorate the hollow eyes
with twinkling glass


a puff of air
from your sweet sigh
must have caused this breeze
that entices the flowers
to release their fragrance
and sends a shudder
passing through the leaves
and me

A Heart for a Heart

In this modern civilized nation
of Arabian Nights
people are extremely polite
talking in soft and lowered voices
lest someday someone should point
and cry out

it is he
Your Honor
he who with his words
wounded my heart
* An Egyptian man recently had one eye removed under the orders of a court
in Saudi Arabia for throwing acid at another Egyptian six years ago, damaging his
left eye. It was the first time in more than 40 years that the literal eye-for-an-eye
punishment had been carried out in the conservative kingdom.”¾Reuters, Aug. 15, 2000.

Niagara Falls

splashing black ink
onto the sky
of memory

always triggers
a downpour
of deafening

Time Difference

it's morning
he paces up and down the room
in silence

in a distant room
she also paces up and down
in silence
yet it is already evening

thousands of miles apart
they both walk to a window
and look up at the half-lit sky
in silence

knowing at this moment
a flick of the eyelids or a twitch of the lips
will certainly set off
an avalanche

On the Towpath

cut into the flesh
the rope
raw as original sin
pulls them back
on the muddy shore
each step a struggle
for the last stand

the endless succession of ayo ayo
is neither complaint
nor song
just to remind themselves
still alive

Valentine's Day

with the fortitude of steel
and the passion of gold
I am sure their love
will at least last
until Valentine's Day

* LONDON (Reuters) Two complete strangers have handcuffed themselves together and flown
to New York in a bid to win $7,200 each if they stay locked in love until Valentine's Day. -- 2001.2.9

Poem of Seven Steps

seven steps
the distance
between life
and death

each step
causes the onlookers to break out
in a cold sweat
each step
tramples our mind
to blank

yet he makes every step
into a chiming rhyme
and turns his boiling pity
into a poem

* Historical background: Feeling threatened by his gifted younger brother Cao Zhi, Cao Pi, the founder of the Wei Dynasty (220-265 A.D.), ordered him to compose a poem within the time limit of taking seven steps. The following is Cao Zhi's famous Poem of Seven Steps :

Boiling in the pot are beans
underneath, the beanstalks
both came from the same roots
why burn so fiercely

BIAN-ZHONG: An Ancient Chinese Musical Instrument Unearthed

they put in this time capsule
whispering wind from a bamboo grove
rippling stream under a wooden bridge
joyous shouts of children playing
gentle chat of grownups
mooing barking crowing chirping cooing cricking
and rumbling from a distant mountain

all of these and many more
they sealed and buried in the ground
to let us hear
thousands of years later
the ringing of a tranquil world

Skipping Stones

posing to take off
yet a stone can only skip across the water
or at most
nine times

even so
it's enough to make us clap our hands
and cry out
when round dreams
ripple across the surface
one following the other

Insomnia, Xian

in fact, is another sort
of sleep

if the bell atop the Bell Tower
suddenly tolls
it will still awaken him
and make him wonder
what body this body
what place this place
what time this time
of course he might just as well turn
and enter into another dream
deeper and keener

as to the plump yet not fat snore
rising and falling beside him
he knows
it's from the Tang Dynasty


awakened by the alarm clock
he starts dancing

an early-rising rooster
in the chicken coop

The Setting Moon

her love spent
yet she keeps turning
her head
as she leaves
at the vulgar man
sound asleep in bed
snoring loudly

A Volcanic Eruption

a self-proclaimed blood relative
of the sun
the wanderer
is dead drunk
at an obscure tavern

after vomiting violently into the air
he murmurs
O mother this is my heart
the love I could never deliver


a pyramid
and see what's out there

Words Not Said

there was something
I wanted to tell the flower
blooming before my window
she brought me spring

this morning
full of warm gratitude
I finally gathered up courage
and began
you sure are ...

when a pair of scissors
snipped both my words
and her

The Filly

returning from the casino
the luckless master
stares greedily
at her unsteady slim legs

she struggles to remain

Ode to a Retired War-Horse

unlike a retired general
it never dreams of the battlefield
as a prairie for galloping
nor mistakes the piles of corpses
for fences to be jumped over

At the Flower Market

in the riot of colors
a bee is buzzing
before a light-yellow flower

though the flower has yet to find a buyer
already the bee is exhausted
flying between past and future
between open field
and the vase on a kitchen table

its brown stinger
in the bright sunlight

Lies, Lies, Lies

even lie detectors

if you don't believe me
just try the following question

Does this dress make me look fat?

Love Story

on a desolate island
a turtle
is making love
to a rock

on a head
grey hair
is making love
with time

on a sheet of paper
a pen
is making love
with an ever-expanding

Jade Necklace

a live cinder
from the Creation

stroking with your finger tips
you stir up the green flame
that flickers on your breast
then smile
and walk straight toward me

Hearing Songs from Childhood

flickering across the dark open space
a firefly...
then two... then three...
soon they multiply
become flashes of lightning
reveal ragged hills
and mountains
overflowing rivers
and ravines
of a face


from white to brown to green to blue to red to purple
you dazzle us with your fast-moving dance
making heaven and earth dizzy

when we finally steady ourselves
and look around

you are already gone

Canadian Rockies

I. Pines

those unafraid of the cold
please step up

the whole valley fills with pines
standing tall and erect

II. On the Columbia Icefield

in awe
facing the frozen

there are some adventurous feet
walking unsteadily toward the brink
of a hole marked with red flags
try to measure the depth
of the origin

III. Tyrrell Museum's Dinosaur Hall

at the homeland of the dinosaur
pieces of fossils large and small
are used to form a backdrop
for starry eyes
to capture and montage

raising their necks howling running chasing
such an earth-shaking scene
is definitely beyond
the capacity
of Hollywood's biggest screen

Neighbor's Flowers

a week ago our neighbor Eddie passed away
this morning I saw the potted flowers on their patio
all drooped and withered

his wife Helen who loves flowers so much
must not have heard the weather report
warning of an early frost


faster than a roller coaster
and more breathtaking
to glide down the perfect arc
the smooth colored-glass slide
of the universe

just stretch out your hands
and close your eyes if you are afraid of heights
then utter a whoop

before the sound fully leaves your mouth
you'll reach the end of the earth


they've been plotting the earth for years
building skyscrapers
(though still far away from the sky)
now they have set their eyes
on the moon

these smart businessmen
overlook the prospects
of prime building lots
on their own belly
where anything would grow
day and night
to reach the sky

*A company in California has divided up the surface of the moon for sale. At the price of $19.99 per acre, it claims to have millions of customers worldwide.

Emergency Kit


oh yes don't forget
rolls of plastic sheets
and duct tape

we need to seal off
fear and hatred


Freedom fries
Freedom toast
Freedom dressing
Freedom kiss
Freedom leave

what more can a Freedomman ask for?


off the view
a tree stands in mute amazement
watching beside him
another group of tourists
devour the scenery
with flashy teeth


swaying alone in the evening wind
a little blue flower in the wilderness

a passing poet with misty eyes
suddenly turns his head
and gazes upon her

one evening centuries later
a blue book of poetry
stands at the corner of a dusty bookshelf

a little blue flower in the wilderness
swaying alone in the evening wind

Valentines Day

meticulously cultivated
to bloom in time for this occasion
or at least be in bud

these magnificent roses
trimmed and wrapped
are now showcased under neon light
with a hundredfold price tag
on love

Desert Flower

under the setting sun
a flower of absurd red
awakens to the stinking heat

she recollects the thunder-filled nightmare
treads rumbling bullets whistling humans crying
then dead silence

finally she remembers
she was a cool little blue flower
amid the mirage

On SARS Street



in a sea of

To Paint a Bird

when you tilt your head
this way
she will tilt hers
that way
she is no model
for no one

after mixing the colors
squinting one eye then the other
beckoning to this and that
finally you are ready to start
just then she flaps her wings
and takes off
leaving behind
a tree of

New Toys

plastic goldfishes
need no feeding
and are lively
even in poisonous water

on the heavily polluted earth
a species made of plastic
could be the next favorite toy
of God

City Windows

divided by metal bars
the sky is to be sold
at retail

day and night
behind every dark window
wary eyes are watching
for the ultimate big sign
of clearance sale

Two Suns or More

finally came the news
the flesh and blood scattered
during the Big Bang
might have settled another solar system
44 light-years away

the thought of having relatives
as cultured and peaceful as the human race
aroused intense excitement throughout the world
now just let us pray
they and we worship
the same God


No one knows more
about the art of flattering
than the wind
whichever direction
the flag desires
the wind is always ready
to oblige

under the bright sun
they conspire hand in hand
to occupy the entire sky

when the flag is vague and vacillates
the wind whirls around huffing and puffing
and whenever there is a depression
the wind is always the first to abscond
leaving the downcast flag
to the rain


O stars stars
endless ever since I learned to count
I don't know any of your names
yet night after night
I lie on the grass wet with dew
looking up at you
hoping to find something
about another world
a world beyond the range
of the most powerful scope


every year on this day
right at this moment
in Dallas
the bullet of hatred
enters his skull
and fragments
into millions of pieces
to fly in all directions
and strike millions of bodies
each with a stunned posture
frozen at that fateful moment
and repeat the same assassination
over and over
of something deep
inside our hearts


no place to hide
here in Bahamas
everywhere is clear and bright

(now I know why
in the Garden of Eden
they saw their own nakedness)

the water so green
the cloud so white
the sky so blue



I let
the bird
in your cage

I know you want
to hear him

but I believe
the acoustics are much better
in the woods


I tore
the passionate poem
you wrote
into pieces
and scattered them
over the river

now you can never
change it
nor take it back


I put out
your lamp

it was kind of you
to try to illuminate
the way
for the moths

but I believe they can see
far better
in the dark


forgive me for exposing
the negatives

I couldn't wait to see
your lovely poses

completely forgetting
this is a world
where black is white


I closed
the poetry book
on the table

the page you bookmarked
was a love poem
written for all lovers
of the world

the poem I am writing
is for you


I have eaten
the donuts
in the fridge

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

they were indeed delicious
it would be fun to watch
the way you laugh half angrily
knowing I was concerned
for your slenderness


I gave your new hat
with seven pretty peacock plumes
to a girl with big bright eyes

after listening to my fairy tale
she kept saying she wanted to be
the beautiful princess


I snatch the sweet dream
from a smiling corner
of your mouth

you turn over
murmuring something
strange yet familiar

it turns out to be
my long lost
childhood name


I gave your high-heeled shoes
to a starry-eyed girl
anxious to grow up

she dreamed of following you
into the glamorous world


I brought your kids to the countryside
not to an amusement park

so used to shoes on pavement
they mistook the supermarket
for the native land of grains

I wanted them to plant their feet
firmly into the paddy field
to grow with seedlings

Copyright 2004 by William Marr.
All rights reserved. Copying and reprinting are permitted so long as credit
is given and wording remains unchanged. Not to be sold in any form.

-- A Book of Poetry by William Marr
can be purchased from AMAZON.COM

Autumn Window

Click here to send comments

Where Next?

Site Map
To Various Sites
Home Page
The Art World of William Marr