John James

1956†

 

 

 

After swallowing some water at Changsha I taste a Wuchang fish | and drown in the fetid

 

litter of its scent. Then strip. Then | swim across the Yangzi River that winds ten

 

thousand li. I see | the whole valley lit with red flags, toy soldiers beneath | the entire

 

Chu sky. Wind batters me, waves hit me—I don’t  | even fathom it. Nothing about this place

 

smacks of reality, | better than walking lazily in the patio. Today I have a lot of

 

thoughts festering, dead time, things to mull over. What | master said: “what is gone

 

into the past is like a river flowing,” | not unlike that line by Heraclitus, which in the West looms.

 

 

 

 

 

† Italicized lines from the “1956” series are excerpted from The Poems of Mao Zedong, trans. Willis Barnstone (University of California Press, 1972).

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