TAKE A LUMP OF CLAY
Take a lump of clay and model
us together, you and me,
on a bed as we both cuddle,
joining and becoming we.
Take both figures then, and squeeze them;
smashing them so you can knead
both in water, and unfreeze them,
warmed, to fill each other’s need.
Lover boy, there’ll always be
in me a part of you as well
as part of me in you, and we
fall under one another’s spell.
Inspired by an article on William Empson by David Hawkes, who was appointed Professor of Chinese in Oxford University in 1961, in the TLS, February 13, 2009 (“Mix them grain by grain”), in which he quotes Empson’s translation of the following Chinese poem from Li Ji, traditionally attributed Lady Guan, the wife of Zhao Mengfu:Silly boy!My lover dear!Knead a lump of play and model us two:Make a model of you
And a model of me.
Make them like as like can be,
Lying together on the same bed.
Then take the two figures and smash them to bits.
Squeeze all together, add water, and knead them---
Model another you,
Model another me,
And in you there’ll be something of me, my love,
And in me there’ll be something of you.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/19/09