Fan Wu

A Father (through Confucius)

The Master said: When someone’s father is still alive, observe his intentions; after his father has passed away, observe his conduct. If for three years he does not alter the ways of the father, he may be called a filial son. I cannot summon an image of my father for you. The numbers are as variable as they are arbitrary. For two and a half years I have turned away from his shame. So as not to turn into it, what I leave of his face to my memory is a streak of soot, a thin line of resentment carved hard as his mouth. With both of us alive I observe, interpret, his intentions, granting no mercy to the merciless.

He said: at fifteen I wanted to learn. At thirty I had a foundation. At forty, a certitude. At fifty, knew the orders of heaven. To disobey the ladder of age is to invite all that’s solid to melt into air. It’s a fucked path that leads you down the labyrinth of reason. I obey heaven’s orders a sexless cherub. Wound of care. He wears a toupee which he takes off only to scratch his head. In frustration, he shows for a moment the pate of his vulnerability. What love was left has gone to pity. Or, languid, love had no start nor quick in time. Why rush to begin, now, twenty-four years in?

Fan Ch’ih asked about humaneness. He said: Love men. Asked about knowledge. He said: To know men. And asked about men themselves: the entropy of manliness. I enjoy the core of rage, to handle it before it’s thrown in an arc, away from any target. My father’s rage loosens dumb avalanches, boundaries seizing to barriers. It always has an object. Fear comes when I cannot tell if he is angry at me or at himself. Terror, when I cannot tell us apart—no boundaries left by which to make such measurements. I have loved men, never well, but recently. It grows dark to draw me down to the shame that’s underground.

I am a no-place with a pain in its middle. The weather was too soon for reconciliation. To whom is your reverence given? Your own mother ruled you with a fist clenched between your teeth. In my culture it is customary to fight for an hour before settling the bill. Even the trout waiting for its turn on the grill looks bored. We are at our best when we attain mutual exclusion. Politely I gather my belonging and slip away from the shadow of the family stump. When eating beside someone in mourning he did not stuff himself. He did not sing on the same day he had mourned.

He said: During a father’s life time, do as he wants; after a father’s death, do as he did. I watch the father’s eye upon the urban lawn. His boy strikes a pose to balance on concrete. Such a moment of life, torn from fantasy, the unstained youth six metres from automotive death. Freedom is released only in proximity to what tears it away. And his dad’s pride glows a sober ember turned vapour by the daily banality of rearing him. His whiteness would not have mattered, but his face bleached into this summer’s white humidity. My dream of a white father mixes like risk into my dreams of neutrality, blankness, a being always able to be rebirthed. Any man could be my father, why ask a question around fact, around truth. Suddenly the footsteps not too small to be followed, nor the purse strings drawn so tight.

When a man’s father is alive, only the man’s aspirations are observable. After his father passes away, his actions become observable. Since memory I have aspired to kill my father in order to open myself up. I wait and do not act. I mourn the living father so others can take his place. Make room, you stupid man. I have caught you stuffing the table with money. His cruelty is my lone inheritance. I would be unwise to spend it on filial piety. The sounds of those two words make me feel like a prize horse, steel in the skull for running too slow. Once, I call out “daddy” during sex and do not think of him. Where I cannot act, I wait.


Seeing a Friend Away
Li Bai


Departure

Green peaks line the north,
White stream winds down east.
Henceforth we must part.
Lone weed blown to where

Cloudbreak, wayfarer’s heart,
Sunset, the old mate’s soul.
Wave hands—parting sign.
Two steeds whinny at leaving’s time.


 

Displacement

north : mountains stretch                    (blue           grey             to  green
whitewater circuits              thru eastern city            walls
here marks        parting of necessity—
friendship         /                   fissure
one tumbleweed              blowing                                   a million miles                                                       out

cloudrift:             nomad’s            mind
sundown :             long beloved’s                                          sentiment
the sight             (you)                    of two hands                              waving                 (go)
two steeds                                         <em>neighing                                  & neighing</em>       upon
separation


Desolation

we grew together
mountainlocked & this
moat of white foam
marooning us into the city

mercy on an old friend
(his mind in cirrus
his head hot
with sunset heft)

you leave me
a lone tumbleweed
wandering through wheat
shaken ablaze

the neigh of your steed
repeats
your one cool
wave adieu

Motherland (for This Drifter)
Wang Wei



Return

O river, old wildneck:
to have come home
and the silos overflowing


Coming Home

I close myself upon
the gate of thorns—
through the eroded
door a mourn-
ful knell, valley-
mouthed and agape
to colour, rushes &
reeds too weak to
hold, too fleet
but to fly: and I alone,
westward blown
to mist as if
a cloud into white,
drawing out the day’s
retreating dawn.


Going Back

Once again, the river:
time tolling over woods, a bell
sounding the opening vale.

Again as it had been but
wilder, vines slunk at my ankles
not knowing me nor my pale purpose.

It’s risen for me twice now
filling me with feeling of flowers
gone to rot, stomped petals, swamped stems.

I’ve come home, riven: nothingness
returns to nothing. A pitiful thing turned
away, I close the thorned gate.



Fan Wu is a spellbound cinema studies master’s student at the University of Toronto and a sporadic poet, socialite and arts writer.

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