Friday, May 4, 2012




spring stays inside the hat
autumn stays inside the blouse
morning stays on the treetops
evening stays in the shithole

the barren mountain stays on the barren mountain
jadeite water stays in the teapot
the mansion stays on the map
the poor stay in the gutter

three pounds of ink stay in the intestines
fifty grams of sweat stay in the bloodstream
spit stays outside the stone
foul language stays on ivory

red stays on a red face
white stays on a white face
fragrant and sweet stay on lips
salty and spicy stay on chopsticks

scorn stays west of the left ventricle
remorse stays east of the pubis
desire stays in front of the dick
exhaustion stays on the eyelid

sickness stays in the palm of the quack
heartache stays on the shoulders of foxes
life-snatching lightning stays on top of the head
a pair of worn-out shoes stays on the roof

soap stays at the edge of the sky
dogshit stays in the flowers
ghosts stay on the bench
shadows stay beside the wineglass

emptiness stays in the mirror
wind stays on the flame
The Compendium of Classical Prose stays under the menu
the Emperor stays on TV

stammering and sputtering stay in the spittoon
being of two minds stays on the chessboard
chivalry and gallantry stay in the dust
all's well that ends well stays on the pillow

What the Tang Did Not Have

All products of modernity aside, the Tang didn't have, well, let's count:
in the Tang there wasn't this, in the Tang there wasn't that, uh, in the
Tang there weren't any Thinkers! In the Tang there were emperors
and beautiful ladies and palaces and armies and officials, there were
astrologers and the moon and the clouds and poets and minstrels and
dancers, there were drunkards and hookers and revolts and stray dogs
and wilderness and ice storms, there were the poor and the illiterate
and national exams and nepotism. . . but in the Tang there were no
Thinkers. How could that be? With no Thinkers, there could be jade
and gold splendors: without Thinkers, everyone was worry-free, espe-
cially the Emperor. Free to play. In the Tang they played up the great
Tang, poets played up their great poems (only after the middle of the
dynasty did poets start to furrow their brows). In the Tang there were so
many poets, it was as if before the Tang there hadn't been any! Not that
in the Tang they thought that poets could take the place of Thinkers,
only there really weren't any Thinkers in the Tang. For anyone now
who dreams of taking us back, let me just warm you: prepare your
thoughts — either give us a second Tang dynasty without any Thinkers,
or give us something that isn't the Tang.



translated by Lucas Klein
from Notes on the Mosquito
selected poems
(New Directions 2012)