My parents gave up their ancestral ghosts
when, midwived by their only son, they were born
again as children to the Lord of Hosts.
I, in turn, gave up a young man’s faith worn
on the sleeve, first as heart, and then as rank;
I burned my uniform. I am gone
to pen my invitations on the blank
tablets, to burn joss paper as a man
incinerates his carbon days, to thank
the ghosts returning in a caravan,
coupled with aliens and aborigines,
back from Seleucia and Samarkand.
Son of the Yellow Emperor (and queens),
I trace my lineage from the man who lined
the yellow bed, a house for in-betweens,
whose dragon-draped sheets twisted and twined
round his throat like a necklace or a noose.
Desire fathers knowledge, body mind,
thus was born Master Zhuang, the skilled recluse,
cousin to Heraclitus. War and change
enkindled his mind, conflagrated, Use
uselessness, like One-Foot, and you will range
like fire through bushfire without getting hurt.
My forebears, village scum, floated to strange
banks, ember-hearts inside their single shirt.
Some were extinguished by a careless shoe.
Some smoldered on. The lucky hit pay dirt.
I see their fire, like that of exiled Jews,
shining like birthing stars in infrared:
so Bruce Lee was reborn as Lee Kuan Yew,
and Mao sprang, whole, from Empress Wu’s godhead.
Through fire no energy is gained or lost.
The boy who lit a joss stick for the dead
beget the man praying for Pentecost;
not enemies but guests who leave at dawn
the host of fathers, sons and holy ghosts,
rising from sleep, and burning to be born.