Afaa Michael Weaver (born Michael S. Weaver) is a poet and playwright. As a translator he works in contemporary Chinese poetry. His twelfth collection of poetry, The Government of Nature (U Pitt 2013), is the second book in a trilogy that began with The Plum Flower Dance (U Pitt 2007). Afaa teaches at Simmons College.
Buying A History Of The Language, in a Beijing bookstore
If there are not enough stars in the sky to count
the years it will take to learn these characters,
do not tell me. The shame of it will make me
put my head down, forever counting my toes.
The lines that contain dynasties and emperors
are in these books, and the clerk tells me the lines
even know the way the idea of ink came to China
before the long march to Manhattan art galleries.
It is a bookstore where the simple act of turning
is something I do in the way of Taiji. I go silent
and remember the spine is the steel axis of my mind,
and breath is a thread going into the navel’s wheel.
The silkiness of silence wrapping around steel
is the secret wealth of how I have learned
to move in a place where I am the whole world
of difference, black on black in black in silhouette.
The chatter around me is a music I know in part,
the tones going the five directions, the meaning
like a walk through Baltimore’s Bohemia, teasing
the idea of language as soul, some kind of genius.