Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yes, it's all just an act

That's what you want to hear, isn't it?

What else do I have to say before you'll pretend to believe me?

What confessions do I have to make to consider myself forgiven?

Journey's end in lover's meeting

Do not imagine that the river has slept
though it blink in its bed in the morning light.
Don't think your absence has gone unnoticed
though we meet as friends who were never apart.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In that case, what's the question?

If you have to ask
let's pretend there's a Question
we both answer to.


Final prophecy:
a man staring into the
bottom of his glass.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Serenity lost

Like a child chasing a firefly
too deep into the forest
I turn, imagining a glimpse of you,
and find myself lost.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Sunday, September 12, 2010


"What if there's no God?"


"What if there's no God?"

"What made you think of that now?"

"I didn't."

"But you just said..."

"I mean I didn't think of it just now. It's something I've often thought about."


"Off and on."

"And you were thinking about it again?"


"Here? Now?"

"Sure. Don't you ever just lie in bed and daydream?"

"Not about God."

"What do you daydream about then?"

"I don't know. Parties. Vacations. Winning the lottery."

"Well, think of it as a vacation from God."

"Or like unwinning the lottery."


"And that's really what you want to talk about?"


"I need some coffee."

"Oh, come on, it'll be fun."

"All right then. My Vacation from God or What I did in my Summer Holidays."

"No, seriously."

"Seriously, I can't see that it would make much difference."

"To you?"

"To us. To people like us."

"People like us?"

"People who don't matter."

"To whom?"

"To anyone."

"You matter to me."

"Thank you. You matter to me too. But that doesn't matter. Because we're both nobodies, you see. We're a solipsism. We cancel out."

"And God?"

"God doesn't come into it because even if he"

"or she"

"even if he or she did exist, he or she wouldn't bother with people like us."

"Non-people like us."

"Exactly. We're like the leaves in the forest no one notices because they're too busy listening for a tree to fall."

"And God is the wind."


"God is a crazy drunk hurricane uprooting all the trees."

"Or sowing them in new places."

"But if God is the wind then he's whirling us about too."

"No, we're just caught up in him."

"Same thing."

"Not at all."

"You're saying God doesn't pay attention to us."


"Because he's focused on the trees."


"But what about him"

"or her"

"being omniscient? Watching the sparrow fall and all that?"

"Look, my GPS knows where I am all the time. That doesn't mean it cares."

"You're saying God watches us but doesn't care."

"If there is a God, yes."

"Wouldn't lift a finger?"


"But maybe he"

"or she"

"cares about all things equally?"

"He or she would have to be pretty stupid to do that."

"Fair enough. You're quite the cynic aren't you?"

"What can I say? It's a cynical forest. And I haven't had any coffee."

"A cynical forest in which we're all leaves and there may be a wind or there may not be but either way there's no escaping gravity."

"More like there's nothing to escape for."

"What about the afterlife?"

"What about it?"

"If there is a God, then there could be an afterlife. That'd be something worth escaping for."

"Why? We'd only be more insignificant."

"We would?"

"Stands to reason. We'd have a whole history of somebodies piled on top of us."

"We'd be the bottom of the heap."

"Exactly. Bring on the bonfire."

"But what if we weren't nobodies."

"But we are."

"How do you know? Maybe unknown to you you're really a somebody."

"I'm a poet and I don't know it."

"What if you're God?"

"What if I'm God and I don't exist?"

"What if you're God and you do exist?"

"Then I'd say Let there be Coffee! And take the rest of the week off."

"What if there were no coffee?"

"Then I'd make some. I'm God, remember."

"What if there were no coffee and you weren't God, though God did exist?"

"What if there were God and no coffee?"


"I'd rather have it the other way round."

"But what if?"

"I suppose we would all sleep really, really soundly."

"Knowing God was watching over us?"


"I don't know. Have you ever tried sleeping with someone watching over you?"

"I wouldn't know. I'd be asleep."

"I had a boyfriend who used to watch me while I slept. It creeped me out."

"So now I'm not God but your ex-boyfriend is?"

"No, I'm just saying. I don't know that having someone watch over you is as comforting as they make it sound."

"But it'd be different with God."


"I don't know. Maybe because you wouldn't feel so judged."

"Not judged? This is God we're talking about."

"Ya, well. Isn't God supposed to be all loving and shit. Like a mother."

"You obviously haven't met my mother."

"I don't particularly want to."


"So you're saying if there is a God he's like a creepy ex-boyfriend."

"or girlfriend."

"or like a creepy ex-girlfriend?"

"Not ex-. A creepy boyfriend or girlfriend you can't break up with."




"A good thing there isn't a God then."

"You're saying there isn't?"

"I hope not. Unless there's something you're not telling me? You're not in a relationship with God, are you?"

"And if I am?"

"I suppose we could just pretend he doesn't exist."

"And hope he's not omniscient."

"And hope he's not omnipotent. I can't compete with that."

"You sure? You want to try?"

"I'm going to need some coffee first."

"Coffee? Really? That's what you're thinking about right now?"

"Hey, you were thinking about God!"

"We're both going to hell, aren't we?"

"Only if there is a God."

"What if there isn't?"

"Then I'd say we've got it pretty sweet."


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Not Me Blues

Who wouldn't make a deal with the Devil
given half a chance?
I got a soul made out of paper
I'd sign away without a glance.

I got a thousand invitations
signed Opportunity
all offering consolation
'cos the Devil won't deal with me.

[sorry, Robert Johnson overdose]

Monday, September 06, 2010

Wooden Ships

A windless day, and still the boats
Are proudly holding up their sails.
This must be what it means to hope.
This must be how it feels to fail.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Sunday, September 05, 2010


As I grow older, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the pretence of reading from reading itself, so that I begin to suspect that theree is a quality of attention I am no longer capable of, a willingness to be absorbed by the page that I no longer possess. As it is, I find myself glancing at my Blackberry every ten minutes, holding it's gaze for the two seconds necessary to ascertain if the light is blinking, the tiny wink that tells me I am wanted, that my attention is required, as it already is, elsewhere.

All the unfinished stories

"Once he wrote that a story wasn't finished
until every line he loved most was omitted.
Yes, but the human spirit cannot withstand such revision
& we write to undo the wrong we cannot alter in our lives."

- Philip Schultz 'Lines to a Jewish Cossack: For Isaac Babel'


I never could decide whether she meant to kill me. The poisoned mushrooms may have been a mistake, after all. That's what I assumed they were, waking up in that hospital bed, being told how lucky I was to be alive. But then she didn't come to visit me for two days, and I began to wonder.

They told me on the third day. About the overdose. How she'd blamed herself for the poisoning, how she'd said she couldn't go on living without me. How they'd waited till I was strong enough for the news. And for weeks I felt miserable, guilty for doubting her. But then I thought, what if she had meant to kill me, and failed? What else could she have done or said? What better way to escape investigation, stay out of prison? And perhaps she thought I would follow her example, and she would have killed me another way?

The truth is, I didn't think I could live without her, but I have. Ten long, haunted years; haunted not by the memory of her, but by my own failure to reciprocate, alone with the possibility of being the one more loved. And who's to say it isn't the doubt that's kept me alive? The not-knowing whether I've outwitted her or betrayed her. A lifetime seeking answers to questions I dare not ask.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

You say we're out of options

You say that the battle is over
Though the fighting hasn't even begun:
No one's stepped on the field, neither us nor the enemy,
No lines have formed, no flag
Has summoned scattered comrades
Or told of the enemy's location.
You say that the battle is over
Though we haven't even begun to fight.

You say we're out of options:
Our bodies are broken, our hands are weak,
We cannot bear the stone of injustice -
The stone of injustice, the mountain of grief -
One touch and we all stepped to one side
Matched words with words and were satisfied.

Friends, in the dust of the beloved's street
Shall our blood no longer shine?
Shall no gardens blossom crimson
In the dust at the beloved's feet?
Shall this mourning not be broken
by the returning cries of lovers
who demand their rights?
The slogans of those not afraid to die?

The tests that grief set us she set us,
The wounds we bore we bore.
There are more wounds owed yet,
More life and limb to be mourned,
More bitter tests to be borne.

- Faiz Ahmed Faiz (translation mine)


The original (for a reading, go here)

Tum ye kehte ho ab koi chaara nahin

Tum ye kehte ho vo jang ho bhi chuki
Jismen rakha nahin hai kisi ne kadam
Koi utraa na maidan mein dushman na hum
Koi saf ban na pai na koi aalam
Muntashir doston ko sadaa de saka
Ajnabi dushmanon ka pataa de saka
Tum ye kehte ho vo jang ho bhi chuki
Jismen rakha nahin humne ab tak kadam

Tum ye kehte ho ab koi chaara nahin
Jism khasta hai, hathon main yaara nahin

Apne bas ka nahin bar-e-sang-e-sitam
Bar-e-sang-e-sitam, bar-e-kuhsar-e-gam
Jisko chukar sabhi ek taraf ho gaye
Baat ki baat main zee-sharaf ho gaye
Doston ku-e-jaana ki nameherban
Khaak par apne roshan lahoo ki bahar
Ab na aayegi kya, ab khilega na kya
Is kaf-ey-nazneen par koi lalazar
Is hazin khamoshi main na loutega kya
Shor-e-aavaz-e-haq, naara-e-giro-daar
Shouk ka imtihan jo hua so hua
Jism-o-jaan ko ziyan jo hua so hua
Sood se peshtar hai ziyan aur bhi
Doston matam-jismo-jaan aur bhi
Aur bhi talakhtar imtihaan aur bhi

- Faiz Ahmed Faiz

After the War

After the war the flowers are all suspect
Escaping too easily from the bone-prisoned earth.
I pluck a soldier's heart to give to my love
No way of knowing whether friend or foe.

- Hu Ming-Xiang