Discussing an Archaeological Curiosity From Perhaps the Han Dynasty Which He Would Write a Poem About in 1052 After Being Introduced to the Aforementioned Artifact at a Drinking Party at the Home of a Calligrapher, Mei Yao-ch’en and I Find It Curious That This Artifact Triggers Deeper Discussion About the Nature of His Visit from the Eleventh Century As Well As His Eventual Departure From the Twenty-First Century to Finish the Rest of His Life, Including Attending a Certain Party at the Home of Ts’ai Chun-Mo Mentioned Earlier, Towards the Success of Which We Begin Drinking in Advance
When they dug at Lang-yeh to build the city wall,
deep in the earth they found a bronze trigger.
Its silver inlaid lines of calibration now far removed
from crossbow and arrow—all that remains
are the lines, and the eye that looks upon them.
Archaeologists would debate for hundreds of years
exactly how the calibration lines worked, what they lined up–
inventing again and again the marvelous weapon
none had seen, found where the city’s defenses would be built.
I will write a poem about this trigger in the year
I return to my homeland; so my host tells me–
he has the advantage of my entire life’s work
in a book. I only know what I have written so far!
Yet I am sure tonight, discussing this poem
dug out of a book of the future, a poem whose lines
of calibration will be a mystery to me until the day
I write them, that we’ve uncovered the trigger that will
send me back, we were the marvelous weapon
yet to be built–me the arrow and he the bow
lining up on the open edge of midlife’s sight.
It’s how you got here, my host tells me. By the time
a poem reaches its reader all that remains
is a trigger waiting to be found. What it calibrated
once is a mystery, as if that even matters.
All that remains are the lines,
and the eye that looks upon them.