Modern Ai Shih Ming (Alas that my lot was not cast)
My mind was full of resentment that found no outlet
my feelings were submerged and could not be expressed
the rivers were wide, and there was no bridge across them.
I let out my wings and a bolt of blue cloth
unwound my wrists, my arteries cracked the air
I felt horses churning against the wet reins
I left the world:
my bitterness had caused me to conceal my traces
to withdraw into secrecy and silence; I was not known
I was a stone beside the President and the magnate,
unrecognized as they conspired, amid the stench of sycophants.
I'd lost, and walked silently while inner turmoil
raged within me, my hunger was to speak and be heard
but bitterness strapped down my tongue
terror paralyzed my imagination. I sat alone with my shadow
yearning for the clover full of bees that was my childhood,
my childhood whose sweetness had become tainted with death--
for my unfulfilled responsibilities to clear air and water
choked me with my own impotence, celebration
was mud, my car was broken down, I helplessly hovered, unable
to go on. I fell asleep.
This was my dream:
at a party people were speaking to me animatedly
but I knew they mistook me for someone else
at times for someone I had been--for their intrigues
I felt no excitement, only a vague sorrow
like a man who has lost and has successfully concealed it
for a time, a man who is waiting to be revealed as out of the game.
I couldn't go backwards and I couldn't go forward
I couldn't rise into the light and sing of its success
nor could I withdraw into the furnace of evil to trace its odor,
since the wheel is bound to turn: my hate and my love equally
were held in check, I couldn't go back and I couldn't go ahead.
I spoke to myself like this:
the leaves clicking along the pavement
sound to me like invisible reindeer. But this thought
would quickly sadden me. The high branches were urging something
I felt dumb to fathom.
I was no one, no one listening to me, I was a rock
I didn't know what to do
the universe no longer felt young to me
the stars stuck to my skin and itched
the black night was a suffocating tent
time was blown back like reeds in the fog
offering me momentary relief, but the sun soon came out
damaging my peace of mind.
Blood is the exchequer tolling my taxes.
Who cares if they kill the tendril
entwined in the plastic handle?
Whose tongue grows in the mud near the river
to be unsheathed as graceful long leaved bamboo?
Whose art can never be reconciled
with a regret that is too late, for what is past
like light on water, is now a current torment?
Death has come through the mind to the hand.
Out of all our good, our platonic medicine
we have birthed evil; on our own cells
we wreak ionization. Hate
now is what enkindles the wheel
and fear follows it forward.
I cannot look except in glimpses
and so am blind, except to rumors of health.
I hide my ears, my tears have dried up in the stinging air
I look like a mask, unable to vary
it is already too late, the sun is carrying us poison,
poison to our eyes, and our eyes have been driven insane.
The world is sunk and foul and undiscriminating
the clear source is bulldozed at the mouth
the black crane folds his wings and hides away.
Note: Italicized lines are either lifted from or are allusions to Ai Shih Ming (Alas That My Lot Was Not Cast) by Yen Chi, p. 136-137 or Yuan Shih (Disgust at the World), from Ch'Chien (The Seven Remonstrances), questionably attributed to Tung-fang Shuo, p. 125-126, from Ch'u Tz'u, The Songs of the South, An Ancient Chinese Anthology, edited and translated by David Hawkes and published by Beacon Press through an arrangement with Oxford University Press, 1962.