216 | China

4:30 Feeling

Escaping office work drudgery.

Office work: a wearisome jumble;
ink drafts: a crosshatch of deletions and smears.
Racing the writing brush, no time to eat,
sun slanting down but never a break;
swamped and muddled in records and reports,
head spinning till it’s senseless and numb­—
I leave off and go west of the wall, 
climb the height and let my eyes roam:
square embankments hold back the clear water,
wild ducks and geese at rest in the middle­—
Where can I get a pair of whirring wings
so I can join you to bob on the waves?

© 1994 by Columbia University Press. Used with permission of Columbia University Press.

Liu Jian, “Poem Without a Category.” An official in the service of a feudal family, Liu Jian was a distinguished member of the Eastern Han–dynasty poetry group known as the Seven Masters of the Jian-an Reign.