Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Taoist Magician's Last Address

My followers, I am about to turn immortal.
After ingesting cinnabar for years,
I’ll soon become like Princely Qiao and Song.

You know the costs, I have spoken of them,
when I was stricken by the longing to live,
how longing broke and drove me out of me—

resigned from lucrative town-temple posts,
slept in a different bedroom from my wife,
and even sent away the serving boy.

When lust sneaked past the bodyguards yet again,
I ran away to live in mountain caves,
ate aerial roots, blue stamens and stone ears.

The Master of the Bamboo Grove is right,
the musk deer grows fragrant from eating cedar
and so I drained my body of its swamp.

You know how many come to mock my work.
Armed with their science and senses, they joke,
“Immortals must be good at lying low!”

They see the worms on cusps of lips and think
death is the common lot. The fools! The fools!
To eke one living from the land and ache

over the scrimped allotment! So I leave
them to their fates and ready mine for change.
The thorny limebush crosses the Huai River…

et cetera. I bequeath to you my scrolls.
Practice your breathing every dawn and dusk
and rest early. Preserve your energy.

Remember: don’t nail shut my coffin lid
but fetter me in a strong crimson net.
I’ll move through it to immortality.

No comments: