Mobirise Site Creator

The Sacred in the Quotidian

Fall, 2005

Gene Berson

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.