Yun He, in real life James T.C. Na, was born and educated in the Philippines. At 17 he published his debut collection of verses Melancholic Score, which in conjunction with subsequent publication of various collections, namely Springtime in Autumn, The Rainbow Snatcher, and The Blue Dust, concurrently enriched the Poet’s creative course in the Sixties. Exploring techniques ranging from lyricism, to aestheticism, to contemporary, he was impressive with his ever dynamic style. Circumstances caused him to pause for 15 years, and when he launched out anew, he managed to shake off the older style and depict the poignant aspects of life with a sophisticated set of skill in his then articles. In the Eighties he put up two more collections of verses, Wild Plant and In the Light of Poetry and Photography.
If a poem must be written
let’s write about nostalgia
and let’s not forget
to use Beijing wool brush
use ink-stick, ground in thick solution
if the poem couldn’t be done
the brush might be swung
with nostalgia thicker than ink
to write a word--
Containing a sea of tidal gurgle
my flask, remains reticent like a sculpture
acres of billow etched on its blind pupils
soft yet vain to close-up stares
real but null to sensory strokes
Let’s adorn you with the sea’s breadth and depth, with
tidal glow’s luster and the wave’s undulation
right through you then, my flask
let me descry, how do you render the universe
condensed, overturned, and placed upside down
Submerged in the frosty clearness of your abdomen
I am all stupefied. Is it the spring? Is it the wine?
Or a non-spring none-wine neither luscious nor potent?
And when all sails journey, and the toll of bells
comes south around the rocks and ravines
without even a sip, still I would have been drunk
have the hawser undone and gone far off...
The Empty Canoe
What an enormous inane is it
isolating the hullaballo and he boom
stretching, extending before your eyes
dropping your entirety into
such a solitude of crystal purity
Such crystal purity
the pebbles, foams, beach and surging wave
tide following tide, memory chasing memory
far and near persisted, new and old allied
distance between time and space
and you erect form eternal
and your erect form being eternal
the cloud vague, wind subsided
tidal roar stopped short, dusk fallen quick
stranded on the beach, you are
that capsized empty canoe
waiting for the next submersion
The Blue Lotus
Arriving gracefully is that
Double and double petal
Blue lotus flourishing at
High noon, with cold crispy fragrance
And an entire summer’s
Outdoors, the ardent sun stays up
The moment though brief, yet I’ll gladly
Share with you, and endure together
That siege of stratifying
Heat energy at high velocity
With extraneous fire should be bearable
What’s red-hot would be the in body combustion
That heart charring, ash converting
Summer is to go soon, you say
You must return, you say
Return to north-north-west
Where the sea is your blue sky
The beach your white cloud
And when you hasten across the after tide stands
Up the cloud remain your glistening footmarks
When you are weary of that sort of
Flight without the benefit of wings
Then, you must couch down
Into the arm of the ocean
Untangle all sorrows, for the waves to comb
And thus, go to sleep at ease
Like each and every sand on the beach
By then, whether or not you are perceptive
Of a man, he would let the northerly wind
Carry his heart, turned ashes by now
And scatter leisurely by the sands over that
In sudden full bloom...
Demanding with the remnant of youth
for the glory of love buried in your being
the dry throat, can it be moistened with gurgles?
Even by overturning the entire forest
I still fail to locate one single rootless tree
you’re the wheel, I’m the road, never to embrace
but to let time chain up the tiny contact surface
Into a path of deep deep track
Beyond comprehension as though my verse, I yet bear up
and wait, trusting in the end someday,
you will know how to share my guilt.
By then, in your eyes, I shall taste
the salt unique of my teardrops.
But abruptly you pivot, fading fast into where you came.
I lift me head, and with highest vocalization note ever,
Shoot dead the soaring determination.
Plumage falls around. I gather a flight of broken-wing.
Its million rootlets insetting your entire body network,
the tree of sentiment clutches at your soul,
sustains it with blood, and expounds
what giving is and what taking is, with agony.
Without a hint, I apprehend the eternity in your eyes.
Planting melon not for sake of reaping, you must realize
Before a wound takes shape, the blood oozes;
Injured part need not marked by scar, like the guy there,
Skin and flesh intact, yet it hurts all over his torso.
In those care-ridden days,
calm and fair, yet you looked up to read the cloud
and had but the vapors behind its grace to read,
had but to perceive its conceiving,
torrent-avalanching, aquatic-rocking latent might.
you took pain pondering how to evade that unleashed,
shapeless, yet adequately lethal blow.
Meanwhile, the untamed screeches from all fields
were sharp and acute,
in volleys and volleys, to dart over here.
Three fifteen in the afternoon,
from Wall Street of other kind to square city of Han’s kin,
dry snow in flocks were falling, falling.
And a certain figure took occasion to shoot up,
in a snake’s creeping form, with a rat’s swift gait,
to rush beyond your familiar living circle.
You tried to hang on something tight,
but ended up with none to hang on to.
The moment could allow no hesitation!
Shoving aside tons of hindrance and dissuasion,
you took off sprinting,
panic-stricken as a homeless dog,
tolerated the agony of rib-piercing sandstorm,
even closed your eyes
as you dared not face the way coming head-on,
above all dared not imagine where the way pointed to
would be a crag, or a cliff.
Suddenly to your left
there unveiled a parcel of good old scenery--
rice field, farm paths, melon arbor and garden plot.
And amid the serenity, vividly audible were childhood laughters.
And the straw-huts, worn and torn, yet all warm-hearted...
Suddenly to your right
there flashed a copy of steel and concrete composition--
The overwhelming human flow
was of but blue eyed blonde hair aliens,
of salad, hotdog, hamburger, and sandwich,
seemingly teasing your hot-food-acquainted guts...
And the way still extended in front of you.
No left turn and no right turn.
And the way still extended in front of you.
Eyes shut eyes open regardless, the way would be but one.
Walk it or run it, just no stopping.
It was the way of no stopping.
It was the race of no laxity.
till your beard and hairs fell off
like autumn leaves wafting at dawn.
Right then, please halt for a breath
and take a look around
if it is the boundless wilderness, or
the jungle with all its trees uprooted.
Is it the wilderness? Is it the jungle?
You would never know.
Esoteric as it has been,
even survey with lifelong exhaustion
would come up with no answer.
About the Poem:
This poem was composed in November, 1983, the late
period of Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, mainly
to show the state of mind of the Filipino-Chinese people
at that time. In the poem, the term "Wall Street of other
kind" refers to Makati, Metro-Manila, the monetary center
run mostly by Spanish-Filipinos; "square city of Han's
kin", the Chinatown; "dry snow" means the act of dropping
shredded papers from tall buildings in both districts by
the people everyday at 3:15 P.M. (The time opposition
leader Senator Aquino was assassinated) to express their
grieves, creating a view like snow drifting all over the
sky; "a certain figure" in turn is the exchange rate
between Peso and U.S. Dollar.
Being, in the torrent of duration, is absurd,
is the wan cadaver decaying by degrees.
And beneath the coffin lid, a resurgence bulges gradually.
Infested with dark fury, we are tire of the quest for
the self-owned worn look, for the self-owned woe.
And purity; purity is just a shiny term in wordbooks.
We often spend an exultant afternoon
to stay in mourn for the personality deceased.
Go laugh, cry, listen to feeble bawl of the dying,
disguise in fashion, and sniff the mire for the taste of Spring.
You ridicule everything and by them get ridiculed in turn.
You use the torso as sacrifice, you set foot on the verge of death.
You buy dreams, buy time, buy puny shivers of the soul.
You find not yourself...
Save mortality, all else is unsubstantial:
Nightfall, neon light, sub-conscious, and verbal will.
And premonition is a drift, is a batch of figures written on water
when ethics got flatly crushed on mattress by last night’s heaviness,
when a wayfaring monk lost the way in black forest,
when he drained the hueless blood, when he drooped the head and died.
You then go get jealous again over a whore, get in field combat with germs,
and peddle sin at bargain price, and chew up at sourish culture.
You then realize this is life,
a life handicapped to inadequacy,
a life totally crumpled up.
We soak to drown ourselves with dusk,
and comfort ourselves with lies.
There is the abrupt springtime spasm, and desire is skimpy.
Amidst the resplendent rays of aurora, desire is skimpy.
You with bloodstained hands, bring along the Bible for a walk,
and making cross sign over the forehead, you enter the church.
God! God in your eyes is merely the like of Devil
when man holds a stackful of mercy and kindness to strew by the streets,
behind the sun hides the shame, and the epoch clean the face with thick blood.
And we hear the gasp of time,
hear each and every desperate screech.
Many rush toward the valley of death, many return from there.
They relate to us lots of perilous experiences,
(About sense that was atrocious. About sense that was debauched.)
knowing not who would be next stricken by horror,
knowing not who would guffaw, who would hush up,
who would hang the clamor all over the prison bars.
As though in unusual dead silence after a city was burnt,
mockery withheld between dental space, waiting to hop up,
you belong to animals that shed no tear, glad to be maltreated.
You illustrate yourself with a stage of tragedy,
and write your dirty name on the funeral stroll.
Among the moans, you are a beast sharing the spoil of lust.
A certain sound and gesture excite your putrefied blood serum.
You then go enjoy a night of tender entanglement among red lanterns.
Throwing up ethical dregs on pillow and mattress, you are alive,
you wear a cravat, you don a pair of pants,
you have readily excitable blood serum.
Compassion is but a sweet face of hypocrisy.
They are used to kill with smile, used to murder with outsider look.
Thus you employ blazing flame to burn the hair,
to burn the fingernails, to burn your withered heart. Year One:
Before your grave there swarm people crying an apathetic wail.
Year Two: A few trace of time spread around your tombstone,
none sheds a generous drop of tear any more over your non-existence,
and spring kicks at your desiccated skeleton with big boot.
In September, everything is marked with a cost:
Sunshine, faith, verity and art,
and women, women scarcely clad,
women fond of stares and wolf calls by the passers-by,
and hope and affection...
And we search the shattered brain for inspiration.
And we endeavor to catch memories in the dirt.
And we extend gratitude that conscience gave us a little break.
And such is being, being written on eyeballs of the blind.
Everything belongs to you; Everything belongs not to you.
Everything is miracle; Everything is not miracle.
Thought is humid, no one really sees his own shadow.
Evening dew stays on guard at a leaf’s apex thru long long night
Yet must perish as daybreak occurs.
Stars cast more lamenting cold beams for fallen companions.
And such is being, being that is neurotic,
taking afternoon tea, laughing a laugh knowing not why to laugh,
working without an aim, striving without a reason.
And such is being, being with a rotten smell.
And such is being. So covetous like last night’s bloodshot eyes,
over the dining table we gnaw and chew our own rib,
and liquefy the soul with the pang of this morn, and drink it,
and let the slightly intoxicated eyes sketch tomorrow’s joy.
And such is being.
Being which no beings can ever account for.