Ne Zha

What if you forgot to kill yourself
in the middle of the story?

The dragon king’s ransomed your father
and your knife’s at the knot of your throat.

A moment’s hesitation could ruin the opera.
Suddenly you might be happy ever after,
with your four pagoda-bearing brothers,
and your mother,
who’s always suspected you were different.

Your red bib gets shredded in the washing machine.
The headmaster objects to your hair.

And upstairs, the magic happens without you:

They build you a body from the root of the lotus,
all six of its arms bearing golden spears.
It wages its own battles,
of which you hear only gossip.

there’s a voice downstairs.
They’re calling you for dinner.

Examine your stubble:
Beyond the glass, the bathroom sink
is a burning altar.

Beyond, you tread the clouds
shod with wheels of wind and fire,

and you wait to kill your father,
not become him.

by Ng Yi-Sheng
from last boy (2006)


SELECTED POEMS: "Anthology" >