At The Sky’s Edge, the title poem of Bei Daos work, and Sower seem fairly representative of the poems inForms of Distance," the first section of At the Skys Edge.
Perhaps At The Sky’s Edge is the most representative because it contains both the sense of despair and of silent acceptance that is found throughout this section of the book:
AT THE SKY’S EDGE
love among the mountains
eternity, that patience of the earth
simplifies our human sounds
one arctic-thin cry
from deep antiquity until now
rest, weary traveler
a wounded ear’s
already laid your dignity bare
one arctic-thin cry
The startling contrast between the silent mountains that form the sky and the artic-thin cry from deep antiquity that seems to symbolize mans existence emphasizes the paradox of mans existence. For man is always seeking eternity, always trying to connect with the patience of the earth, while simultaneously trying to overcome this sense of despair that haunts his very existence. Why desire to live forever when life is such misery?
While At the Skys Edge seems to capture that sense of eternity that pervades much of Chinese poetry, Sower seems much more topical. Its hard to read this poem and not think of what is presently happening in our society:
a sower walks into the great hall
it’s war out there, he says
and you awash in emptiness
you’ve sworn off your duty to sound the alarm
I’ve come in the name of fields
it’s war out there
I walk out from that great hail
all four directions a boundless harvest scene
I start planning for war
and the crops I burn
send up the wolf-smoke of warning fires
but something haunts me furiously:
he’s sowing seed across marble floors
Perhaps Bushs strategy is to outwait those who oppose war with Iraq. Congress approval of his invasion of Iraq seems to have passed ages ago, doesnt it? How long can you protest before being overwhelmed by a sense of despair, awash in emptiness?
Considering the number of wars America has fought in the last fifty years, how many wars can you oppose before you decide that you must live your own life, must give up sounding the alarm. How many times can you cry wolf before others no longer believe you?
What is gained from burning crops? Theres something deeply ominous in I start planning for war/ performing death/ and the crops I burn. How does one perform death? Is it a ritual or a conscious act? Can anything good come from sowing seed across marble floors? Arent seeds spread on such infertile ground doomed to die, or are they the seeds of despair, seeds that will bear a bountiful crop? Will the Grim Reaper come to harvest this crop?