Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Poems: "New Year's Lament, 1988" -- by Marilyn Chin

A star falls and another poet dies—
in Manila, a stone came down
on her head like manna from heaven.
The newspaper said,
“She was a bad housewife, and besides,
her poetry wasn’t lucid.”
And Ai Qing, sweet uncle,
is three years gone. He bears witness now
only in an unfinished translation
collecting dust on my desk
and a thin aerogram pinned,
flapping on the wall.
Saying, “Dear Disciple,
you must never forgive them.
They have wasted my life!”
As the third world shakes
her tin roofs into the sun,
and the moon devours our Western elderberry,
I sit here on the eve of the revolution
in my inexpensive camisole
(the one that Santa brought me).
The joke is sad and is on me.
I scrawl this invective to you,
“a certain American poet,”
who has licked so many donkeys
that your tongue stays salty.
I will not lay my body down yet.
So, my lutestrings are broken,
and a giant cloud gathers rain over my piano.
The world left fallow will not be tilled—
each blade has been devoured,
each mote enslaved. Those we wish dead
will thrive past a hundred, those we esteem
will be sullied by thirty-three.
And I, once Guanyin’s timid girlchild,
who teethed among the thieves
and suckled amidst the murderers—
I/we today are thirty-two.
As the rabbit sacrifices its tail
and escapes into the burrow,
the dragon appears, loud and sodden,
with a taste of cotton and thistle
in his ever lustful maw. And again,
he shall not have her!

Ai Qing: Chinese revolutionary and poet
Guanyin/Kuan Yin: The Goddess of Mercy

*     *     *     *    *
Poet Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Her books are taught in classrooms internationally. They include: Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty and Dwarf Bamboo. She is also the author of a novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.

Chin has won numerous awards for her poetry, including ones from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to writing poetry, she has translated poems by the modern Chinese poet Ai Qing and co-translated poems by the Japanese poet Gozo Yoshimasu. She co-directs the MFA program at San Diego State University.

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