Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ancestral Worship

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.

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