Poetry

Satyr’s Flute

Shangyang Fang

I was skinning a goat’s penis to prepare
                    the dish my mother had taught me.
This was not in a dream, though, with a dream’s
                        deliciousness, the knife—a stroke of blueness
—tapered the bleeding thing into a sheer bruise.
                        One must always be careful with a penis.
One must marinate it in a pool of oyster sauce
                        with starch, sprinkle ginger juice to cleanse
its urinous smell—smell of fish—ithyphallic,
                        as Rimbaud may have said—let the residue
of semen ferment with blood and the blueness
                        into an evening sky like this: when the penis
starts weeping ceaselessly, softly at first,
                        like a newborn, then louder, until the kitchen
turns into a train station, from which the goat
                        was brought to the nearest butchery.
The penis cries like a baby, like a baby it cries
                        for its wanting—without the mind
the penis is innocent. The penis wants
                        its goat back. The way a child wants
his mother’s milk. And the goat,
                        without its penis, is it anyway
a goat? Half-male? Will it go crazy looking
                        at the moon? Will it serve the Goat King
like a eunuch in a primeval dynasty?
                        Or it will follow the rancid smell of dead
fish, past the meadow, past the bullying woods,
                        to reach the lampblack river and watch
the water flow. Watch the needles
                        of fish sewing the stream and wish
one of them was his genital. The penis in my hand
                        is thick and emblematic, something I cannot
fully fathom. A device without the service
                        of its mind, how does that work?
How, in heaven’s name, can a mind bear to lose a part
                        of its form and stomach the loss as a thought?
The thought of a penis, being nothing otherwise,
                        is not a penis. How my mother once saw
me with a boy. How she said, no. The n preceding
                        the choir of the o is like a castration
that severed me from her. O, am I anyway the penis
                        my mother had once lost? I rushed
back to my room, stayed a whole afternoon
                        in front of the mirror and thought I am not
beautiful, thought she was right, no, I cannot
                        love this boy in front of me. And wished
he had not been born. Now I can see how the goat,
                        disturbed by his forbidden thought, staggers
toward that river, mates with deliquescent
                        nymphs—Hermes into Hermaphroditus,
whose lilac-encased body, androgynous
                        and gorgeous, once drowned and rose
from the rootless water. And I see
                        the meadow outside the kitchen
is purple, an infecting pool of neutering
                        tincture. The penis, enveloped inside
my hands, is old and tired, like a fetus curling
                        back toward an anonymous uterus.

Shangyang Fang comes from Chengdu, China. A Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is author of the poetry collection Burying the Mountain.
Originally published:
June 28, 2021

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