Letter to Xi

By | 3 February 2024

Till the blue grass turn yellow
and the yellow leaves float in air
… E. Pound, Canto 99

As the Sun moves towards Equinox, and the weather changes,
So the ground beneath our feet begins to tremble like an aspen.
Each year Autumn seems to come earlier, the calendar slipping,
Sacred rites falling out of alignment, and the people are confused.
Whatever edicts used to obtain, they no longer have any force.
Yesterday, when we should have been preparing for the long fast,
None of the nearby cafés and restaurants were preparing pancakes,
Though a cooking programme featured a pair of ladyboys,
All dolled up as though they were parade queens on Oxford Street,
Worn out echos of Kybele’s priests, garish and indiscriminate.

Long ago, our parish processed around the church, in splendour,
Catholic, each going in his proper order, thurifers and monstrance
Glistening in the light strewn by the great bonfire, hymns rising
Like clouds of incense to the October night: even the Lodge came,
And the Archbishop was seen in the company of the Rabbi.
My father told me to take mother away if he phoned in the code,
Though he must stay on, to keep the two transmitters broadcasting.
His pistol still had six bullets to keep the Japs at bay, now the Reds,
Then to wait for the next message, or look for the drifting clouds.
And all the time we were glued to the Voice of America, our salvation.

Wise men make plans, having read the histories, for little changes,
And your régime is surely the world’s wisest government,
The long Silk Road stretching like a ribbon from sea to sea,
Your sonship assured in true and ordered succession, as you
Are bathed in the people’s affections, and nurtured by our opportunism.
But, and here you need to pay attention: the rats are gnawing
Hard on the foundation posts, so many wise-arse lawyers
Rushing off to the court without great cause, harridans screaming
To pull down any man who’s displeased them, their sisters also,
And bats, which have roosted in the fish markets, are sneezing.

This perfected world is falling once again into disorder, into plague.
Widows die alone in locked rooms, their sons held at town gates:
Ships, far out in the Yellow Sea, burn down to the waterline,
Their crews and passengers clinging to each other in despair,
And from the skies, airliners fall like so many wounded eagles.
What chance is there to restore needed balance, which is made
Not in one mere day, a year, nor even in one Emperor’s reign,
Nor for the sake of the New Year, when families reunite in filiality?
A gentleman’s vocation is sincerity in maintaining the profession,
Rather than indulging in passions engendered by an economics text.

Greed, and pride, led Máo to the podium, had incense burnt,
Made clear laws to overturn Heaven and Earth, blasphemed.
Good laws come from good manners, which come from water
Tumbling down from the lofty hills of the Buddha’s abode,
From the earth that crumbles in one’s fist, sprouts millet and rice.
Though you have bought your office, and procured the people:
The drinking of blood is the depth of bad manners, unlawful,
As is the harassment of artists and scholars, or slicing babes.
No good will come of the state as it experiments with our lives,
You’ve disturbed the hills and streams that colour the air we breathe.

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