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Erlking
Yiqun Zhou (BFA IL 2020)


I’ve probably seen more standup in my life than most people have eaten salt. Before I saw this one comedian’s standup act, I never took them seriously. I always thought comedy is like salt. Some like it, some don’t, purely by chance. It’s the cosmic gift, the ancient energy that, like salt, cannot be created by men, only collected and harvested, like salt. You consume it and no meaning has been generated. Until I saw this comedian’s act, I realized even silly things could possess the power of Camus, giving me the strength and energy to pass on hope in the midst of winter. So I wrote this poem.


Took my son in town with me for a cabaret
Hiding from my mother cause she’s mad
for she can’t shift the beer stain on my shirt with Tide.
Her trousers were always ready, that’s where she keeps her panties.
How can I compete?
With her impeccable image of me?

Do not go gently into the bold bold night,
as none of the entertainers can see a clear punchline in sight.
I wish them all the good luck,
though my son mutters:
I wish I could have a gun for my 7th birthday,
so I can give it to the host to wish him a chance to die,
no, it’s not too late.
Very nice of him,
to consider the offer of assisted suicide.
I thought,
but the venom of his glee,
is distasteful like the blue spot on cheese.
I asked him, aren’t you afraid
The holy punishment might smite thee?
“I don’t think so.”
But speaking of the devil,
my son is instantly struck by a lightning bolt.
My parental instinct kicks in and I shout:
Oh shit we should go.
I stride my pony,
with my son under my armpit.
Heading towards the black forest,
with the promise of a cure on the other side of the city.
“Mother, mother where am I going?”
“You are going to shut up
and we will see,
if we can cross the forest without losing my key,
to my Ford Elite.
Cause riding this pony is a bad idea, it’s faster to drive a car.”
Without the shelter,
of the modern metal monster.
My dear’s son’s eyes are wide open,
to the horror of passing tree figures.
“Mother, mother there is a weird king behind us”
“Don’t be ridiculous it’s just gas.”
“I ain’t joking ma,
and I ain’t farting.
The weird man has yolk for eyeballs, cheetos for fingers,
and is wearing a shiny suit of armor.”
“Kid don’t be rude, kid! that’s called leper.”
“Mother, you really ought to take a look.
for I know the fancy on funny shits you took.
I remembered you laughed
when egg bombs attacked
the judgmental cook.”
With a thundering shock
I can hear the sound
of the king rolling his eyes to the back of his head aloud.
“Can’t believe you watch programs with a taste of a fucking cock,
and that’s Simon Cowell you are talking about.”
I was awestruck by the austere sound

as I once only heard the tempting offer
from my so-called birth mother.
“Did he promise you land?
Did he promise you garments made out of diamond,
Or did he promise you what you always wanted,

the love juice from a mammary gland?”
My son shouted at me,
Watching as the attention drained worryingly from my face.
Oh my dear friends,
Have you seen the face and body,
of a whole man?
He has his mind straight and life goal set
and a pair of legs that was destined to measure the           unknown terrain.
Are you jealous of these four limbs on a piece of meat?
Or have you seen what I have seen,
the weird man behind him,
who is my leper king?
He has his eyeballs back rolled,
blindness doesn’t obstruct him from conquering his road.
His fingers feed the obese,
for salvaging what the National Healthcare System has failed was never his goal.
What are you fending with your armor,
my leper king?
Is it noble to protect the normals from your leprosy?
Or are you preventing what once happened before,
jubilant leeches stealing your genius, your illness,
trying to function on borrowed madness?

I followed him as he was not leading,
to what this whole man he was feeding?
From a cemetery the homeland where he was coming,
Amongst nothing but a forest of withered white bones he was walking.

At the gate of the barren cemetery,
gathered a herd of eager fairies.
The wholesome man did a fantastic act,
a pull-back reveal joke, a delivery with the precision of a sledgehammer.
Surrounding him was all the cheering.
Following him was the second part of the act, the king, the mad man
He stood perfectly still as the laughing became jeering
As he determined in his refusal to entertain, for he seeks no compliment.
As the squeezed dry fairies began to accuse, to leave, to seal his failure,
Only now has the real fun been discovered.
My mad man, my king,
“If you refuse to use your brain to think”
he shouted as he turned all his innards into pus into stink
oozing out of his mouth like laughter—this crazy man,
“I will bestow you one last thing!”
He then shed his armors,
left a mist in the mid air.
The wholesome man shot up like a puppet
as the whirlwind of stink pulls the threads like a puppeteer.
Another perfect act was performed by the wholesome man,
and the wholesome man collapsed as the mad king throws away the threads,
left laughters fermented into a bad taste in the fairies’ mouths.

How can I not wait,
to offer my dancing body?
Let the leprosy inhabit me
a vacancy for the mad king who charmed me silly.
He will wear my skin as an armor,
and fend the world of normality with my bones,
finally, a man as though a mother takes me home.
So you ask me,
wait a minute, what about your ill son,
who might die young?
He was already across the forest safely,
whilst I was cured for this motherless disease.
The lightning strike was not the scar,
as the real pain was the birthmark.
He was now on a journey,
to break the inherited curse
of the bondage by blood to the birth mother.


Yiqun Zhou is the co-founder of a poetry society with a membership of two. Both founders believe Icarus was the greatest stalker.