Poet: Robert Perchan

Robert Perchan was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up there.  His poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press, 2005 Weldon Kees Award).  His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. In 2007 his short short story “The Neoplastic Surgeon” won the on-line Entelechy: Mind and Culture Bio-fiction Prize. He currently resides in Busan, South Korea.  You can see some of his stuff on his website


                                              Can’t stop messin’
                                              with the danger zone

                                              -- Cyndi Lauper

Halfway through the semester
they stop asking me
How old are you?
Don’t you miss your home town?
Is it true you’re not married?
How much do you drink?
And we go on
to deeper things
What, sir, does
she-bop mean?
Good question
I wouldn’t’ve known
except I read
Rolling Stone
to keep up with
my old crowd
It means, I say
Female Autoeroticism
Blank stares all around
exotic frogs
on lotus pads
gazing up
into the Light
so I say it
in Korean
yoja jah-wee haeng-wee
and I sense a ripple
in this placid pond
of Oriental souls
How does he know
that bad word?

they whisper
quite rightly
given my struggles
with their tongue
but at least I’ve
let them know
what we sing about
back where I come from

(from Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light, available at amazon)


I push my wobbly shopping cart
along the supermarket aisle.
The nosey Korean housewives
crane their necks and peer
down into the wire basket
as if the meager contents there
(two cantaloupes, bacon, beer)
might reveal the real secret
of my Otherness: So this, I
decide, is what it must be like
to have big tits, a plunging neckline
and nowhere to hide.

(from Overdressed to Kill, available at amazon)


1,802,016 years into human evolution,
Deok-hee “Ducky” Min of Pusan, South Korea,
discovers, while toweling off after a hot shower,
that the Homo sapiens nose is detachable.
A soft click, at first, right between her cheeks
where bone locks into bone to form her face.
Then a slight sucking sound as the nose
pulls away from its tender bed of pink flesh.
She stares at it a moment, nestled in the folds
of her towel. Turns it over with the awe
and fascination of a mother’s wonderment
at the precious appendages of her neonate.
The flared nares. The celestial upturned slope
ending in a tip a little more pointed than
she would have expected. The tiny mole
on the left side. Gingerly she lifts it up
to the center of her face and with a nudge
of her thumb clicks it back in place again.
Alone in the world with this delicious
new knowledge, on the cross-town bus
to work she sees herself on a tv talk show,
passing her nose around an astonished panel
of movie stars, pop singers and fashion models.
Later a personal interview with the new lady
President of the Republic. A rare private
audience with the Dalai Lama. An envoy
from Secretary-General of the UN
Ban Ki-moon inviting her to assume
the throne as Empress of the Universe.
Or, perhaps, dispatched on a Secret Mission
of Peace to that Supreme Leader—pudgy,
murderous, nose-thumbing Kim Jong Un.

(from CHA Magazine #26, online poetry journal, Hong Kong)


My grandfather was a violin shredder. He
shredded violins. Concertmasters and other
maestro violinists came to him and handed him
their violins for shredding. They didn’t want
anyone else bowing and fingering the old tunes
they had once played on them. That’s what
they said. My grandfather put the violins neck first
into the mouth of the shredder and turned the crank.
(This was back in the olden days when life was
really hands on.) Then he emptied the shreds
from the basin of the shredder and settled
them in a marble urn and handed them back
to the violinists to set on their fireplace mantels
or bedroom dressers or on a shelf in the depths
of their closets. But here’s the thing. He always
kept a few of the shreds from the violins
for himself. He didn’t ever give them all back.
He kept shreds of the scroll, peg box, fingerboard,
tailpiece, saddle and so on right down to the chinrest.
(One part of a violin isn’t a part at all. It’s a pair
of empty spaces called F-holes. I guess old Antonio S.
& Sons couldn’t pass up a chance at a good laugh
on the job, though they always looked like a brace
of S-holes to me.) When my grandfather had collected
enough shreds he set to work—his real life’s work.
What he so ardently desired to be remembered for.
With a magnifying glass and a rack of tweezers
and a pot of glue he set about putting together
shreds from a thousand different violins into one
virtuoso violin. It took a long time just to lay
the shreds out in their proper order of assemblage.
Sometimes his memory failed him. Sometimes
just his hands. But he kept at it. He kept at it because
he knew in that scatter of shreds on his worktable
there was a whole violin in there. But how did he
know? I went away to college to find out and when
I came back for his funeral his landlord handed me
the key to his workshop and said clean it out, especially
the damn violin shreds. With trepidation in my heart
and the bouquet of shredded violin filling my nostrils,
I eased open the workshop door, though I knew
deep down I would find no cherished violin there
on my grandfather’s worktable. I understood that.
I had been to college. Instead, there it was: humbling,
pathetic and inscrutable. A thin wooden hexagonal dowel
nearly the length of a man’s forearm and painted yellow.
Capped on one end with a tiny pink disk of India rubber.
Sharpened on the other to a glinting point that invited
further scrutiny—that rubbed off black on the ball
of my thumb like soft coal. And stenciled on the side
a stark numeral 2. It was the oddest violin I had ever seen.
I picked it up and tucked the soft end under my chin
and fiddled with it a little bit and in a sudden fit
of inspiration began to scribble on my blank palm:
         My grandfather was a violin shredder. He
               shredded violins. Concertmasters
                  and other maestro violinists
                    came to him and handed
                       him their violins for
                         shredding. They
                            didn’t want

owing and fingerin

(from Spillway Magazine #22)


One summer afternoon my family took delivery of the first Orgun on our block.  It arrived inside an Orgun Box but the Orgun was soon removed from the Orgun Box and installed in our parlor.  The Orgun Box itself was set out by the curb to be admired by the neighborhood.  As each kid climbed in and came out drenched with envy I discovered I was loathed as never before.  Bicycles pedaled by and slowed down in front of the Orgun Box.  Then they leaned forward and sped off.  Soon the street and then the whole town was littered with Orgun Boxes on all the curbs.  But now the envy and hatred was transfigured into fellow feeling and a sacred kind of love none of us kids had ever known before.  Not an Orgun Box was empty of us kids all throughout the day and deep into the night as our parents danced in their parlors to their Orguns and its tunes.  This rapture lasted until the Orguns in our parlors began to sort of grind inside and fire blanks.  First only one blank in maybe a thousand notes and just the occasional grind.  Then no less than one blank in a hundred and a likewise grind.  My Dad took ours apart and oiled it and snapped it back together but that only made it worse.  Soon enough it was firing one blank in every ten notes.  Then things got really bad.  Till every other note was a blank and then nothing but blanks and nothing but grinds.  What, Dad said, was the point.  Look at all these blank notes lying around.  And listen to those grinds.  This wasn’t part of the deal.  That nightfall we uninstalled the Orgun from our parlor and wheeled it out to the curb and pushed it inside the Orgun Box.  And the rest of the dutiful town followed suit.  The next afternoon the Orgun Boxes were loaded on trucks with Hats and Flat Shoes at the wheel.  We were asked to sign pledges that said No, we had never touched the Orguns at all.  No, they had been delivered by mistake.  We were not ready for them yet.  No, it had been an experiment.  The Orguns were not good for us after all.  No, they were flawed.  If the Orguns were misused we might hurt ourselves.  What about, we cried, the fellow feeling and the sacred kind of love none of us kids had ever known before.  The rapture.  Did you really feel that and know it too, said the Hats and Flat Shoes.  Are you sure.  Yes, we cried.  Yes we felt it and we knew it too.  Well, said the Hats and Flat Shoes, can you wear a red cap and a bellhop jacket with gold braid.  Yes, we cried.  Yes we can.  And can you hold a tin cup and dance to a grind.  Yes, we cried.  Yes we can.  Take us with you.
                 And they did and we do.

(from Thumbnail Magazine #6)