posted by caroline picard

While in Boston I found a book of poems by Mao Tze Tung translated by Willis Barnstone. I copied two of them here, as I was particularly interested in a tense atheism–an ironic appeal to God as a bearer of plagues. I like to pretend that Mao would have had a weak spot for heavy metal, something only his closest associates would know, when sometimes he would go to the most remote part of whatever cave he was staying in where he would hook up a very fine pair of headphones to a small world radio (capable of picking up soundwaves from the future) where he could listen to Norway and Iceland ripping up electric.


Saying Goodbye to the God of Disease (1)

July 1958

Mauve waters and green mountains are nothing

when the great aincient doctor Hua Tuo

could not defeat a tiny worm.

A thousand villages collapsed, were choked with weeds,

men were lost arrows.

Ghosts sang in the doorway of a few desolate houses.

Yet now in a day we leap around the earth

or explore a thousand Milky Ways.

And if the cowherd who lives on a star

asks about the god of plagues,

tell him, happy or sad, the god is gone,

washed away in the waters.

Saying Goodbye to the God of Disease (2)

July 1958

Thousands of willow branches in a spring wind.

Six hundred million of China, land of the gods,

and exemplary like the emperors Shun and Yao.

A scarlet rain of peach blossoms turned into waves

and emerald mountains into bridges.

Summits touch the sky.

We dig with silver shovels

and iron arms shake the earth and the Three Rivers.

God of plagues where are you goin?

We burn paper boats and bright candles

to light his way to heave.