Oriental Metaphysics and Two Other Poems

by Chanming Yuan

Paper Plane: for Yuan Hongqi

I can never afford a spaceship
Nor do I even have a toy rocket
But I have many a sheet of paper
I have folded it, kept folding each

Into a plane, and launching it
From my humble homesite
One after another
High into the night sky

To fly close, closer, and the closest
To where his Buddhahood is sitting
Above a lotus flower, where his smile
Shines like the sunlight upon his sons

And grandsons down here, where he will catch
A plane gliding to him like a blue bird
Can you see its wings drafted with the poems
I have written for you, Dad


Y: the Aptonym of Changming Yuan

If the name is not right, the speech will carry no might – Confucius

Changing or charming
My given name is so often
Misspelt (as my family name
Which is sometimes mispronounced
Intentionally or otherwise)
That the language has definitely
Failed me in this foreign tongue, just
As Confucius warned me
As early as two thousand years ago

Unlike Fairbank
The tremendously rich banker
Unlike Cherish Hart
The particularly famous cardiologist
Unlike Jack Armstrong
Probably the greatest baseball player
Unlike Laura, my loyal lawyer
Or Dennis, your dandy dentist

Indeed, we have long
Forgotten the true name of
God, so our language is
Bound to go nowhere
Except a few rare
Cases for or
against aptonym


Oriental Metaphysics

No, it was
It is
Not a bird
That has just flown by
In stillness
But a spectre
(in a crow’s shape?)
A whim
(about a crane?)
Or a glyph
(standing for a cuckoo?)
That can actually
Flap away
Neither from your agitated heart
Nor from my meditating mind
Like the butterfly
In a Zhuangzian dream

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