Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, February 13, 2016


- For Deng Xiao-Ping. China, 1992.

In Beidaihe the breakers beat
From Bohai Sea in foam replete
And gently break, and softly beat,
And sonorous beat their somnolent beat
Of drowsy summer ocean.
In Beidaihe the old ones sleep
Far from Zhongnanhai's bothersome heat
The eye-sharp heat, the knife-bright heat
The gong-hard, adamant-sounding heat
Behind, the heaven-high flattening heat;
Before, the welcoming ocean.

In Beidaihe old comrades meet
The decks of their memories nearly complete
And shuffle and deal, and deal and cheat
With factions gone parchment parched hands compete
With spades gone trump, with sense gone deep
Yet trumping a comrade is still as sweet
Till struggling ends in the ocean.

In Beidaihe the sand blows deep
And blots with waves the marks of feet
And muffles the echoes of goose-dancing feet
Old stamping feet, old shuffling feet
Old doddering, gently padding feet
A billion, a million, two tired old feet
On the long march to ultimate ocean.

In Beidaihe the breakers beat
And bend and bow like harvest wheat.
The golden wheat, the rippling wheat
Twisting in wind like a winding sheet
Till cadres of apsaras sickle the wheat
And lay it in sheaves at the judgement seat
Of muttering, notionless ocean.

In Beidaihe the breakers beat
Like distant guns behind each seat
Then topple, echoing through the street
The empty, ancient, endless street
The darkening street, the silent street
Then sucking in, in foam retreat
To drowsy summer ocean.

- Stephen K. Roney

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