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Andrew Parkin

Andrew Parkin has been Canadian since 1970. Educated at Pembroke College Cambridge and the Drama Department of Bristol University, he has taught at UBC and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he instigated Chinese-English poetry readings involving several distinguished Chinese poets. His first three collections of original poetry, including Yokohama Days, Kyoto Nights (Ekstasis Editions) were published in Canada. He now writes poetry, fiction and academic essays full-time in Vancouver.



Into the dark behind my sleep-closed eyelids
an old idea rolls from beyond all reason:
our earliest people came into the light
hatched from the space inside a gourd.
All that came out of it
grew in its own season.

As ironic as humane,
old Confucius asked us once
“Am I a bitter gourd
fit to hang but not to eat?”
Magical Bai Shilang impounded hordes
of minor gods in a single gourd
as punishment for tortures he endured.
This mobile prison fell on jagged rocks
and gods escaped pell-mell in flocks
like evils from Pandora’s box!

Do gourds produce another kind of birth?
In your dark and inner space
flammable seeds compress the secrets,
bitter, sweet, or full of grace.
A monk had a “hulu” once
that held the dramas of the human race.
I hold four “cannons” the size of snooker balls,
two in each hand, those small incongruous worlds.
A forgotten master has engraved them:
scenes to amuse, intrigue, enchant.
I roll them, shake them, rattle seeds!

Leaning on his metal cane,
a beggar shuffles, scavenging
on a battlefield; what does he say?
In my dream he clings to me
and whispers, “What is the true way?”
His mouth and empty pockets gape
yet his words become the speech of kings:
“Crippled I am but I was once a prince.
Where, then, are the true men?”

In a walled garden
beside a pond with crayfish
amid the silent reeds,
indecisive butterflies crisscross crazy flight paths
and two girls, each with her flower
entwined in hair piled high, forever just so,
wield heart-shaped fans –ah, the heart!—
painted with sprigs of young bamboo.
They make for the moon gate.
Outside do lovers wait?
I cannot warn them of love’s deceptions.
I speak to them from another life.

Two ladies stand by the wall capped with glazed tiles.
Someone has painted sprigs of peonies
on their fans. One points
skilled fingers at a gnarled rock,
lake caressed for centuries,
which now stands, strange stony visitor,
in the garden, as if a rock could replace
a mountain or a cliff’s wave-ravaged face.
The other lady ignores a dragonfly
and, apart, just waits by the gate.
Two slim boughs of young bamboo peep
at the ladies, as if to mock.
Come from your curved shade, ladies,
glide, elegant as always into my light,
as I smile alone by the gate,
smile for a rendez-vous we cannot keep.


From Star with a Thousand Moons (English/Chinese edition)
by Andrew Parkin
© 2011, 2018 Andrew Parkin
Published by Ekstasis Editions