Because They Mustby Aaron Poochigian
In Qinghai Province modest dunes entomb
Emperor Zhuanxu and a reading room
where you might find, among the spooled remains
of handscrolls from a literary age,
quaint metaphysics by a nameless sage.
The Dragon and the Phoenix, he maintains,
are ‘Fire-fathered twins,’ and Time, their mother,
rouses them every hundred thousand years
to feud until they neutralize each other.
Anon is really good on how it’s done:
just after dawn, a lizard grimace rears
out of a crater, scratches gouge the edges,
and bat-wings flex their webbing in the sun.
Earth shudders meanwhile, and a ripe divide
discharges fowl that in an instant fledges,
leans leeward and remembers how to glide.
Drawn, then, by more than mating magnetism
each toward its bane, they intertwine and fight
like yin and yang, the darkness and the light,
because they must: since the original schism
wedded warfare to the way of things,
tension alone can keep the world in balance.
Red shrieks incendiary, claws and talons
tattering feather-clad and leathern wings,
they rage straight through to twilight in the air, in
the crater lakes their combat slaps and churns
and over acreage their breath makes barren.
He-thunderbird, she-wyrm, they take their turns
winning and losing, till climactic spasms
sunder them, and daylight disappears,
and they collapse into adjacent chasms
to sleep another hundred thousand years.