Friday, April 24, 2015

Reading the Alphabet, Part X...

There aren't a lot of authors whose last names begin with the letter X, at least, not at my library. And the few books I did find on the library shelf weren't ones I wanted to read. I was just about to give up on the letter X altogether when I remembered that April is National Poetry Month. So, I went to check out the 800s and serendipitously stumbled upon Notes on the Mosquito by Xi Chuan (translated by Lucas Klein). I love the imagery in his poetry; and found his later prose poems to be very powerful. But since I'm no literary critic, I'll let Xi Chuan's words speak for themselves.

Here are a few stanzas from Answering Venus (45 Fragments):
night is the sleep of seven wax moths
dawn is the singing of five mermaids
noon is the scratching of three field mice
dusk is the shadow of a crow

If I breathe, what will my heart think?
If I vomit, what will my soul think?

in sudden loneliness
someone who rarely worries can't help but sob

when my life is a mess
my watch is particularly precise

no one has yet tested the pencil
to see how many words it can write

And here's the first part of his prose poem Salute:

Depression. A suspended gong. A leopard dozing in the basement. A spiral staircase. A torch at night. A city gate. Cold that touches a blade of grass beneath an ancient constellation. Concealed flesh. Undrinkable water. An ice cube floating like a giant vessel. Its passenger a bird. A blocked canal. An unborn girl. Unformed tears. Unenforced punishments. Chaos. Balance. Ascent. Blankness... How can depression be discussed without error? Facing flower petals descending at a crossroads, consider the cost of desperate risk-taking.

Depression: an immovable ocean.
Civilization written on the seventh page of suffering.

I want to shout, to force steel to echo, to force mice so accustomed to secrecy to line up before me. I want to shout, but I suppress my voice so I'm not abusive, so I whisper like the wind instead of booming like a cannon. Stronger heartbeats follow a greater silence; I see reserves of water drunk dry, so scream! Oh I want to scream, when a hundred crows cackle I have no golden tongue--I'm a bad omen.

Too many desires, not enough seawater.
Fantasies require capital for sustenance.

Let roses correct our errors, let thunder rebuke us! On a slow journey, no asking the destination. The moment the moth hits the flame it's inopportune to discuss eternity, it's hard to find proof of perfection.

Memory: my textbook
Love: the unfinished business of the heart.

Good, huh?
Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful!! Thanks for sharing this poet's work. I especially liked "Too many desires, not enough seawater" and "When my life is a mess, my watch is particularly precise."