Peter Feng is a poet and translator from Qingdao, China. He received a PhD in English Literature from Nanjing University in 2011, and since then he has been exploring the interconnections between poetry, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. He has translated a number of American poets, including elsewhere by Scott Alexander Jones and The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath (Shanghai Translation Publishing House). He is the author of Parallel Tongues, The Desert Swimmer, and Cruel Raven (co-authored with Sun Dong, Nanjing University Press). His poems appear in Poetry Sky, American Poetry Review, Big Scream, Grey Sparrow, Napalm Health Spa, and others.
He will make believe to have his eyes shut, or to have none.
You cannot argue with a philosopher of no eyes
who claims to have seen glittering shadows, air on fire
who whips you around identity and difference and pirouettes
on the needle-head and cries, "neither has any share in either"
Neither can you argue with him who starts from non-being
Is he a disciple of Parmenides? He sat
by the city gate. "This republic is not imagined
yet not real," he said. It's getting darker
He pointed at the walls, "You came from shadows
among all things under the sun, you are the most transient"
The Athenians passed him by; they thought he had no eyes
Only a boy came to sit with him
He asked the boy, "Are you young Socrates or old Plato?
Or both, feigning to be one
When I light the fire of images, they are agitated
When I polish shadows, they call me the magician of appearance
When I show them the fantastic light, they accuse me of corrupting youth"
The boy nodded, then shook his head, seeming to think
The philosopher went on, "I have no eyes but see the ideas of man
and polis—they are neither eternal nor immutable. I also see
this polis destroyed in a war. The same with the idea of polis"
"This dictum is now false. It's raining
If you follow at my heels, you will see the unborn, the non-being
coming into being, neither partially nor wholly
Thousands of years after my death, they are still arguing about
the imagined, real, and in-between worlds"
The rain hit the ground when he stopped. With trembling hands
he led the boy into a corner—an earthquake in a young heart