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bear by san

March 2017

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spies sandbaggers sense of occasion

they're pouring heavy water on me


Because nothing creates creativity like spending the day killing your brain with idleness, I bring you the first draft of a poem.

Li Bai drowns while embracing the moon


If Li Bai wrote our greatest human poetry
in lines extravagant of idleness, drunkenness, the cloud-washed moon,
petals on water,
of the sensible industrious women who left him--idle, drunken--
to those petals and that moon...

(some of these things are true)


If Li Bai wrote our greatest human poetry
staggering drunk and idle, if he drowned extravagantly,
and broke the reflection

of the pigeon-colored moon. If ghosty petals--drifting, drunken--

smoothed over his inarticulate corpse...

(one of these things is true)

 

If Li Bai wrote our greatest human poetry
then made his death extravagant in the sacred gutter Yangtze

a plunge through blossoms,

a mirror that would not bear his weight--still, chill--

and after, those lied who knew it for a suicide...

 

(all of these things are true)

 

If Li Bai wrote our greatest human poetry
in chrysanthemum robes falling, falling, all the while falling,

reciting as he fell,

(the neighbors behind their hands said--shitfaced, shiftless--)

then still. Still--

 

Still.

 

 

--Elizabeth Bear

12 September 2008



For your reference, Li Bai's poem "Amusing Myself" in English translation:

Facing my wine, I did not see the dusk,
Falling blossoms have filled the folds of my clothes.
Drunk, I rise and approach the moon in the stream,
Birds are far off, people too are few.


If you happen to read Chinese, here's the original.

The idleness of computer games is probably slightly better for you than the idleness of rice spirits, but probably not by much.

Tomorrow, I expect my brainkiller will be playing in photoshop. I have a bunch of CM icons I want to make. Do you suppose that will lead to more poetry?

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Comments

You're out of season! This is a Dragon Boat Festival poem and it's Mid-Autumn / Moon Festival this weekend. (Nope, just checked and I'm wrong - the Dragon Boat festival honors a *different* drowned poet.)

ANyway, I like the delicacy of this, the attempt to see Li Bai and his work in their own terms and not push later / Western ideas on them.
Out of season. Perennially.
I can't recognize the characters anymore, but I'm pleased to see the Pinyin and compare it to the translation, and say to myself, "Yep! That's about right."
It's nice when old skills have atrophied less than we thought.
Thank you.
Permission to get drunk and drown in a river! Woot!

...oh wait.
Oh, excellent.

If you're going to honor the dead with offerings, it's a good notion to throw in something besides the usual rice and stuff--a guy could get pretty bored there in the afterlife if people didn't make the effort to drop him a few lines every now and then.
Thank you!

And hey, at least he can use it to line his birdcage....
I suspect that he's been upsetting the land of the dead, jigging about and singing "They still read my stuff! They still read my stuff!" although probably more poetically than that.
Hee. Yeah. Of course we still read his stuff! It's good!

*g*
Sweeter is praise than the smell of incense!