Z.L. Zhou

hexagram 1, qián: the key

In the field, and it seems like you will be here again,\\
you are stuck by fear of decision: how it clouds you,\\
furthers you, crowds you! Familiar shades left behind,\\
this expanse before you mirrors of unknown thunders…\\
how easily forgotten, home. The dragon appears\\
in the heavens, its brief flight too headed, pointful, sure:\\
the grass crusted with dew, and in each, alight, a field;\\
you see moving forth is to wash fear from cloth with fear.\\
Night falls; there is no blame from the dry, the clean, heaven.

AT THE MARSH, REMARKING ON THE FALLEN-DOWN POWERLINES,\\
THE EDDIES

hexagram 7, shī: the army

It may be that the army carries corpses to you,\\
it may be that the army retreats. Would you blame them?\\
For it appears you are impaled with the blunt-end spear…\\
perhaps the troops, like you, will answer. They surround you—\\
like the copper-sea, the earth—waiting for the tracking\\
of your eye to the game. Set! The target flies, it bounds—\\
crisscross the field! Let fall your lips’ law of engagement—\\
the powder, piled calm, watches your attendant musing.\\
You were prepared for this order the whole of your life.\\

NO ONE IS TELLING ME TO ENGAGE WITH HIS SIGNAGE, BUT THAT\\
FACE WITH THE ARCHED BROWS HIGH: SYMPATHY OR AGREEMENT,\\
SYMPATHY OR AGREEMENT

hexagram 40, xiè: deliverance

At the ends of the world, the traditional fields, the\\
pillars chaotic with birds. Here, mist; there, din, missed and\\
empty. Foxes—sly yipping, spineless about your toes—\\
claim the earth and its get their inheritance. Look up.\\
And hawk, the viceroy, shouts down both challenge and demand.\\
Sparrows buffet your face and the grey fox nips your knees;\\
when you kick, he sprints past the steles with measured silence.\\
You know this to mean great fortune, ahead or behind.\\
In what direction, only you or the hawk can say.

ON YET ANOTHER FIRST DATE, WHEN MY FOOT BRUSHES HIS, I\\
AM FORCED TO WONDER IF I SHOULD WITHDRAW THE ADVANTAGE

hexagram 29, kǎn: the snare

It is as if you are concerned with the sin business,\\
weeping and the goddess, her skirt-edge wet with the spring.\\
Your reflection wefts in dapples and open windows…\\
This is the hunt in the abyss, and your aid? Cords, blame.\\
The shackle misplaced, and the goddess? Earthen vessels:\\
a jug of wine, a bowl of rice with it. Intention.\\
O Misfortunate, the hunt carries you. And pity!\\
In this brackish lighting, how do you hope to find her?\\
A compass points north like fixation. You and guilt: north.

HE PULLS OUT “THE OTHER” CARD AND I AM SHOCKED. YOU ARE ALL\\
EXCEEDINGLY CORDIAL AND I WORRY, I WORRY

These poems are from a project where I reinterpret the I Ching. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese divinatory guide from 1000 BC, has long fascinated me as a text: it has been continuously consulted since a time when the world’s population was a sixth of modern-day America; its world is so distant from ours that some of its aspects are approachable only through inexact science, science that verges on divination itself.
Z.L. Zhou is a poet from Tucson, Arizona, and Hangzhou, China; in his other life, he is a Linguistics PhD student at UCLA.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.