More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature
Stephen Shu-Ning Liu
My Father's Zen
Like the statue of an Indian Buddha,
on the cushion he sat, cross-legged;
his world existed in that candle light.
He told me he had seen, many times,
a yellow crane descending from Heaven.
His reed-cushion, he explained, was never
touched by human joy or grief; once he sat
on it, day or night, he would not budge a
whit even if the house had caught on fire.
And in his hour of his meditation, I saw him
stretching out his arms like a cat,
or pulling his limbs together, or lifting up his
head, like a silkworm before the spinning,
and I saw him doing all these with his eyes
closed, his hands resting on his knees.
His dead-water mind, he said, would
frequently escape from our farmland,
like a willow catkin, a goose feather,
floating, wafting and drifting away
into the sky, into infinity;
at times he felt his flesh and bones
all evaporating in the summer sun,
and at times he shrank into a grain,
invisible in the armor of a sea turtle.
And sitting before the candle light, I
seem to see my father nodding at me,
in the purple mist of the night:
he will keep his promise, I know,
that he would come back for me;
but am I ready to go, ready to ride
his Yellow Crane in the sky?
I Walk into the Ancient Village of Wu Chen
I walk into the ancient village of Wu Chen, among
ruins, pagodas, huts, homes outlined by low
black-tile roofs, collapsed brick walls. A little boy
sits on the door step of his house, a ragged doll,
his eyes dull as the cobblestone pavement, his
watering nose hanging bubbles. A baby pig lies
beside him, in the mud, no sound from its pinkish
snout. A red-ear rooster struts in the doorway,
pecking insect and crumbs and grains.
The boy is unaware of my approaching, the pig has
no intention to rise from its sleep. And in the last sun,
in the rising river mist, I see the flickering ghost
of my lost youth in the boy's dirty face,
in the war-ruined village of Wu Chen.
Cultural Revolution Display at the B.C. University, Canada
You walk into a rare collection of Chairman Mao's handiwork:
a slaughter field, a sea of virus, a hell of vipers. You feel
the coming of a collapsing sky, and you hear the groans of
some 8,000,000 men and women and children in a cumulus
of redness: red banners, red scrolls, red books, red sleeves, red
hats, and the red scarves and neckties and clubs and ropes for Red
Guards, kid soldiers and killing machines of the fat-belly King
and his Queen and his slaves and his hunting dogs.
And as you approach the smiling face of Mao, you bump into
the flopping wings of a vampire bat, flier of darkness, that
drinks, each night, human blood half the weight of his body;
its hair turning crimson, its gore-saturated mouth salivating,
and all waves from the Pacific may not was clean these walls
around the art hall which is cold, muggy, a catacomb, and you
will smell these little hands of the Red Guards, and the world
will talk about that fat-belly King and his mistress Queen and his
handiwork for another and another and another ten thousand years.