The Jade
or Why the Ancient
Chinese Poets
Remained Unmarried

Cast out of the house again, fuming
at my wife, my teenaged son
who has come back from his previous life
barely disguised as a pig who drops underwear,
socks, books, video games anywhere,
I keep repeating it's no wonder
the ancient Chinese poets remained unmarried
during their walks
of Ten Thousand Miles
and river rides
of Ten Thousand Sorrows.

I try to imagine Tu Fu watching Kung Sung
dance with two swords, teaching
him the black art of calligraphy
with a wife jabbing him in the ribs,
whispering for him to keep his eyes to home, she knows
he is not contemplating the jade chrysanthemum
or the deep heart of the emerald,
he's not kidding anyone,
or Li Po raising his cracked blue jug
to the moon while his cracked boy blasts
another monster-rock video three rooms away,
or Po Chu-I driven to chew ferns
because he couldn't balance the budget,
or Emperor Wu of the Han listening to tales
of the spirit world, trying to prolong
his life despite his children's tuition being due,
me fingering a list of a hundred chores to do this Spring
as I watch smoke rise from the chimney
a good half-mile down there, serpent
coiled with tail in mouth a few seconds above our house
before the north wind
from the hill tears it apart.

--- ©1994 Len Roberts


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