When I announce my intention to swim in Three Great Rivers
my secretaries and advisors react with outrage.
The water is too dirty, they protest, there is danger
from currents, and mud holes, and whirlpools.
What in this world is pure, I ask them?
What in this world is free of risk?
So I swam two hours in the Pearl River
amidst the mud and sewage of the countryside
and they had no choice but to flounder alongside me,
leaping from the boat fully dressed,
some of them unable to swim at all, the fools.
If a tiger never brushes its teeth why should I?
I rinse my mouth with green tea before bed,
as I was taught as a child,
as good peasants still do in southern provinces.
If my teeth blacken and rot, so be it. I have endured
far worse in service to the Revolution.
I fear for the future of the People’s Republic.
The Party has grown conservative, inelastic.
Marx, I have come to fear, is like a new Confucius,
and the party leaders move like slaves
to his dogma with no drive or imagination.
It is time to stir up the sediment,
to set the people against the Party itself.
Snow lasts longest in the shadows of great peaks.
Jiang Qing has six toes.
I occupy myself with dance parties
and reading Chinese history in my bathrobe at poolside.
When I swim in the ocean at Baidahei
the security men try to frighten me
with accounts of shark attacks.
Imagine a peasant too fastidious
to muck the shit from his stables.
Imagine the husband of a six-toed woman
worried about swimming with sharks.