I think, by Dai Wangshu (1905-1950)

I’ve been reading the Big Red Book of Twentieth Century Chines Literature. Wonderfully eye-opening, with poets and novelists who are famous in China, but whom we’ve never heard of here, and really rather minimal-to-no political pandering. This is one of my favorites.

I think therefore I am a butterfly…
The soft call of a flower ten thousand years later
Has passed through the dreamless unwaking mist
To make my multicolored wings vibrate

Translated by Gregory Lee

Amuse mouche

A breath of reason, quiet
As a slumbering guard,
Easy as falling, effortless
As unknowing.

Then whimsy shifts the burden
And our wings become despair,
The high notion of pointlessness
When all visible light fails

And only the path remains,
Unlit and wholly
Vulgar as a bishop,
Only more like a cat in heat.

The ancient wisdoms fail to impress
Upon us the hasty times
In which we live,
With left baggage

From countless dead hours,
From times when it took
Only a second thought
To kill an idea,

When enslaved and enslavers alike
Believed the same corrupt verses,
When change was a thing
Of generations.

So ring cold the wind,
Bring down the ancient will to
Dance, among the chosen,
And sing, among the frozen.

The old cycles continue,
Now stronger, now weaker,
But always sure-footed, inevitable
Unto the unforeseeable.

The same skills — to kill,
To hunt, to take away without
Hesitation — still function
But how long?

Geology is gaining on us.
Our charts are uncertain,
Blank just where we need them,
Gaping lacunae for us to leap into.

The big Was

First, the big Was, expanding suddenly
Too quick to glow, too far to measure
Like blood coagulates, in lumps, relentless

Blind recognition yearning to recombine
Into the breadth-less infinite, one by one,
Across the fleeing everness

It was the lumps, after all, without them
Nothing is born, nothing dies
The lumps, flailing, contact and contract

Lend each other mass and meaning
Become vast in becoming spent
In the large and slow entropic resistance

Fragments of causation forgoing randomness
Blinding recapitulation, a first worm wriggles
Your father, my son, your mother, too

Born in that salty swilling dawn
Descending on down time’s narrow tunnel
Until all that’s left is dawn