Sunday, May 17, 2015

In this no-man zone

By X. Z. Shao
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              Would that I were a reed trodden under foot,
              For that were better than to be a lyre of silvery strings
              In a house whose lord has no fingers
              And whose children are deaf.
                                          — Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet

In this no-man zone
of once a stranger’s tongue,
an invisible island of Crusoe,
among my fellow countrymen,
I am the sole monarch
ruling supreme, and the only subject
catering to his ruler’s every whim.

In perpetual solitude,
I make soliloquies,
think aloud and write in a language
none other than yours,
a voiceless zone, it seems,  
but with Ariel’s tricks constantly in the wind.

I was born, live and survive
in this ancient land
with her unique writing kit
and enchanting words
which make me prostrate
in awe to their aching charm and glamour.
They are milk to the lucky me
incarnated here to sate
an endless longing in the wind.

I thought I would be one among them
with mountains to trek,
rivers to wade and to course,
hearing monkeys’ screams
and looking at the clouds
capping the top of a steep bank
where the fairy Queen is said
to have met her worldly counterpart
in secret plays of love,
but I am not.

I survive in reveling
with their souls wrapped up in words,
dancing in the moonshine
beaming to me from the old,
their lore and tales,
the very air sustaining me wherever I am.

My contemporaries
are recovering from a collective madness
inspired by the Lord of Delusion.
Their hands are still dusty
in temple destructions,
in removing heads from Buddha’s statues,
Their habits of vandalization
still sometimes return them to the old deed.
Despite they are being caught red-handed,
they are unaware of their guilt and shame.

I can’t speak to them,
theirs is a version of simplified
and contaminated language
made coarse by the north wind
and trivialized by their caged life
plus the swelling up pride of the newly-rich
who gossip in buzzwords
which make your skin pop up
gooseflesh when heard.

In tune with the ancient,
in peace the modern
in an invisible secluded zone,
I gradually pick up your tongue, now mine.
Traversing far and wide,
it seems I were thousands of years old,
yet, still young, still a baby
acquiring a new tongue.
I know what everyone talks,
yet, I am among none of them.

This margin, an isle, a new planet,
or a similar shady zone of Dante’s purgatory
where ancient men of letter converge,
has its first frontier settler.
Maybe Sappho will come with her lyre,
Keats with a sanguine smile,
Tai Qian with his brew for years,
Li Bai with a sword and a gourd,
Rumi whirling with one palm up, one down,
Baudelaire with his mask off,
and my friend, Dana Wilde of Maine,
is already a frequenter before them all,
and the list will go on and on…  
until my place becomes a carousal of songs.


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