A Headstrong Boy

A Headstrong Boy

I guess my mother spoiled me–
I’m a headstrong boy. I want every instant
to be lovely as crayons.

I’d like to draw–on chaste white paper–
a clumsy freedom, eyes that never wept,
a piece of sky, a feather, a leaf,
a pale green evening, and an apple.

I’d like to draw dawn, the smile dew sees,
the earliest, tenderest love–an imaginary love
who’s never seen a mournful cloud,
whose eyes the color of sky will gaze at me
forever, and never turn away.
I’d like to draw distance, a bright horizon,
carefree, rippling rivers, hills sheathed in green furze.
I want the lovers to stand together in silence,
I want each breathless moment to beget a flower.

I want to draw a future I’ve never seen–
nor ever can–though I’m sure she’ll be beautiful.
I’ll draw her an autumn coat the color of candle flame,
and maple leaves, and all the hearts that ever loved her.
I’ll draw her a wedding, an early morning garden party,
swathed in candy-wrappers decked with winter scenes.

I’m a headstrong boy. I want to paint out every sorrow,
to cover the world with colored windows,
let all the eyes accustomed to darkness
be accustomed to light. I want to draw wind,
mountains, each one bigger than the last.
I want to draw the dream of the East,
a fathomless sea, a joyful voice.

Finally, I’d like to draw myself in one corner–
a panda, huddled in a dark Victorian forest,
hunkering in the quiet branches, homeless, lost,
not even a heart left behind me, far away,
only teeming dreams of berries
and great, wide eyes.

This pining’s pointless.
I haven’t any crayons,
any breathless moments.
All I have are fingers and pain.

I think I’ll tear the paper to bits
and let them drift away,
hunting them for butterflies.

-Gu Cheng
trans. Donald Finkel


Gu Cheng was one of the misty poets, a group of modern Chinese poets who wrote against the Cultural Revolution. They’re called the misty poets because Official Chinese Sources (I think) called their work hazy and obscure. I find that it’s rather inspirational. Doesn’t it make you want to build a better world?


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