Sestina

by Gary Lai

Ezra Pound fought with all of his might but
in the end he put a huge, ugly ai
in the middle of his big fat poem
that showed anything but love for China.
The book’s typesetter doesn’t speak Chinese
and used a font that is ten times too large.

This sweet universe is never too large
for sailors, explorers to explore but
if you know the history of us Chinese,
who didn’t explore to spread love – or ai –
for whom the center of the world’s China,
we can be described in a short poem.

If anywhere you can put a poem –
whether it’s microscopic or real large,
something gothic or orient from China –
on your body, like a small Buddha, but
instead of bamboo shoots you put an ai
to show, like Pound, you speak little Chinese.

Maybe Pound met three people who’re Chinese
who served as his muse for his quaint poem.
Maybe it’s his choice, to put the great ai –
which does not show that his heart is so large –
in the middle of his lines, mark you, but
then there’s no equivalent in China.

You don’t need to live in greater China
to speak fluent or write fluent Chinese.
You do, as some detractors would say, but
that’s not the point, as far as the poem
that Pound wrote is concerned; you can be large,
a giant, and write in Chinese with ai.

What Ezra Pound showed was not his true ai
but his condescension for old China.
Now people everywhere want their tats large
in bamboo shooted, charactered Chinese,
not a phrase or a well thought-out poem.
Pound as an ambassador would say, “But…”

One’s heart can’t be too large to learn Chinese.
With ai one may appreciate China,
though not in this poem. Pound would say, “But…”

 
Gary Lai hails from Hong Kong and is an alumnus of USC, the University of British Columbia Allard School of Law, Columbia University, and the University of Hong Kong.

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