Saturday, March 31, 2012

Love of Ci'an (Reposted Poem with Poet's Comments)

poet's foreword: After my recent entries about the primarily Buddhist goddess, Kwan Yin (Quan Yin) it reminded me of this poem originally from 2005).`~~TK 

Love of Ci'an

by Tim Kavi


gentle breezes

flew from
Kunming's
frozen lake

I walked it

with my love

near Cixi's place


Then I heard

her gentle sighs

in the full light

of winter's surprise

where

in the hall of 

the Buddhas 

near a

Temple of Incense


your heart

was fully seen

in the ghostly sheen


mist of

winter morn

I heard

your whispers

to a future unborn

for in the

plans of Cixi
you were

overlooked 

love was but a dream

wafting
in the smoke

and carried

throughout

eternity


yet it

warmed
my cold hands
with the gloves

you bought


across

the Great Wall

flying

to the Deserts

of Dunhuang


as beautiful

as Guan Yin


the wind

that blew between

us and brought

me to your wings


to your lips

two countries
two hearts

that had
now evolved
to mix together
yet now lived
so far apart

found

each other

in that first

destiny's kiss


but was 

too soon departed


and in that mix
of winter's day
I heard the crying of Ci'an
broken hearted


scheming deceit
would bring the Emperor
at long last
a pitious son


so I walked
and you followed
down the steps
history there, was undone.


Poet's Comments: .

Buddhist and Chinese themes: this poem mentions the Caves of Dunhuang (where sacred Buddhist cave drawings are near where the Goddess Guan Yin encountered the Monkey King). Guan Yin the Bodhisattva or Buddhist Goddess of Compassion is mentioned in the poem as well. The setting of the poem is in China at The Summer Palace in Beijing. Kunming Lake is there, and I did walk on the frozen lake in the Winter of 2005. Later that day, I also had the pleasure of touring the grounds of the Summer Palace, including the Long Corridor and at the very highest point, the Buddhist Temple of Incense. This was in part, a building with a very large Buddha in it and many other Buddhas lined the walls of that place.

The Summer Palace was one of the residences of the Emperor and Empress. As the Qing Dynasty ended in 1908, the last major empress to live there was Cixi who supplanted Ci'an. Cixi was a powerful empress, some would consider a despot and villain, others see her as very intelligent and highly political. Ci'an was the main consort of the Emperor until Cixi became the predominant one and bore the Emperor his only son. Where Ci'an was quiet, loyal, and an Empress known for meekness, Cixi was very much her opposite, skillful and manipulative, and ruling whatever she could with a conniving and mighty fist. Although an Empress was never allowed to make political suggestions, Cixi often did so from behind a curtain. Cixi became the main Empress especially after the sudden death of Ci'an. Some believe that Ci'an was poisoned by Cixi because Ci'an had always been in excellent health until the day of her untimely death.

In this poem there is some encounter with a presence or ghostlike figure, such as Ci'an. Ci'an, who feels overlooked, is longing for love. Her spirit is felt by the foreigner who even comes from a distant land. Like incense, her symbolic nature as part of history spreads out over the Great Wall and then all the way to the Dunhuang caves (which is out along the Silk Road and near Mongolia) where she is like the goddess. As a counterpoint there is an outplaying of this tension between two cross cultural lovers as they are finding each other in love --shown in other verses of this poem. Obviously, some of the verses in the poem are between the two lovers themselves as they find themselves in this historical place, or perhaps, there is an encounter of a man with the ghost of Ci'an! ---- T.K.

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