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The Village On The Water IV

Thump-thump of stiffening fish contorting in the  
   Bilge beneath the gunwale; 
 Lidless, bulging, reddened eyes, swivelling upwards, 
Protruding horribly from the straining sockets,
    Express stupefied amazement at the inconceivable 
   Of a former world pulled inside out. 
 The opening and shutting of mouths, almost as if 
Attempting to fashion words for the injustices of  
    Such a cruel, monstrous act.
  Desperately trying to draw on that which can  
   No longer be found.
 Conscious of this agonized, suffocating death they 
Endure, we are prompted 
    To seek endorsement from the River Gods.
  Soon that nameless thing that comes to strangle all 
 Will come Searching for our breath also...
But not this day. Today, to satisfy our urgent needs...
    These fish are compelled to give up on theirs.

  Choruses of bird song. And orioles serenade our 
   Returning wupengs.
 "Tie up your boats", the birds sing, "we will watch 
Over your mornings catch"...they too are alert to 
    The shaded heron.
  An extending, accentuated, placing of the feet; 
   Huddled and wrapped in obsequious and divine
Ever vigilant -- ever cautious;
    Stalks with painstaking deliberation of a 
  Creeping Snow Leopard;
   Headband more blacker than Summer's thundering
In the narrowing slit of the pupil -- an intense, 
  Pitiless as the murderous assassin that steals 
   Through the unlit nights.

 But we know his artful ways...and stow away our 
Hard-earned prize.

    Now we will sit cross legged and eat 
  Hot-dry noodles, steamed wuchang and pork-rib soup
   With lotus root;
 And raising smooth, round, porcelain drinking cups, 
Decorated with brightly fired colours, 
    To our salty lips, sip sweetened green-tea 
  Made with water from the blessed Toad Hole;                    
   After having drank from this rare hole, Lu Yu 
 Left letters...
And declared it --
    "The Fourth Spring Under Heaven!"

  My wife, shuffling about the floor as a timid,
   Padded quail, 
 Sighing absently in that abstract manner, softly 
Chiding and scolding unto herself...
    She has a secret she has not yet disclosed of me.
  It will be a boy...the old priest in the orange robe 
   Has foretold of it.
 The boy shall fulfil his earthly duty to his
Heavenly ancestors as I have done...
    And as all those who have come before me have 
  So done;
   Fathering children is an honourable duty...
 And must, therefore, be considered higher than a 
Mere obligation.
    She will tell me when she is ready to tell me...
  The only permitted privilege for a female.
   I am well acquainted with the rules of the game...
 Having played this game before.

Flattened evening stretching faraway over fading  
    Purple hills;
  Could just as easily be another clearing dawning. 
   The lapping waters lulling swell, putting me in
 Mind of contented sleep visited upon a woman's 
Shallow-heaving chest, 
    Shifting the secured wupengs -- upwards -- 
  Tighter still against their creaking moorings;
   Flurrying snow, caught in the glare of the
 Sputtering lanthorns, 
Falls silently upon deserted verandas;
    A fragile sun finally relinquishes...collapses down... 
  Sinks into the bottomless depths of endless green 
 That huge Autumn Moon --
As big as an island in the emerald sea!

Copyright © john fleming | Year Posted 2020


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