Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poem: Hungry Ghosts 5

1. The Grand Historian Makes a Virtue of Necessity
2. The Scholar Minister Gives Career Advice
3. The Emperor's Male Favorite Waits Up for Him
4. The Taoist Magician's Last Address

5. He Bids His Brotherly Lover Farewell

Drained, you crawl up my flank and hear the flood
subside. This light on us is of the moon.
Again you ask me to explain love’s well spring
at Kuanyin Temple lucky for rain prayers.

When you strode to the altar, how the men stared
at your unblemished skin, your torso snared
in a much mended jacket made of goat.
The gods desired you, even the Jade Emperor.

Of all the powdered faces there, you spoke
to the plainest. Can you explain why? No?
Nor can I. Mother drank your cup of tea
and liked you, loved you like another son.

In that year, Xuanzong abdicated breath
and his son’s reign inaugurated our days
of picking pekoe leaves on rippling slopes
and nights of sipping tea. A week of years.

Don’t forget the presents for your bride.
I’ve packed and left them on the kang for you.
She’s gentle, pretty, with childbearing hips.
Your fathers must have sons to sacrifice

at the ancestral altar, offer meat
and wine, or else their ghosts get hungry.
As the dead sage dictates, a ruler should
be a ruler, a father father, a son son.

I’ve done my duty by you. I can do
no more. Oh, how pathetic that sounds!
I’m turning woman, so no more of this.
See, passion is a tide. My body’s dried.