Monday, January 09, 2006

He Bids His Brother-Lover Farewell

Fu-jian Province, 15th century

Spent, you crawl up my flank and hear the flood
subside. This light on us is of the moon.
Again you ask me to divine our wellspring
at Guan-Yin Temple lucky for rain-prayers.

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

Of all those powdered faces there, you spoke
to the plainest. Can you explain why? No?
Nor can I. Mother drank your cup of tea
and loved you as her favorite son-in-law.

In that year, Xuan-zong abdicated breath.
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 child-bearing 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 be a 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 cools and my body’s dried.

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