by Changming Yuan
— Believe it or not, the ancient Chinese 5-Agent Principle accounts for us all.

1 Metal (born in a year ending in 0 or 1)
helps water but hinders wood; helped by earth but hindered by fire
he used to be totally dull-colored
because he came from the earth’s inside
now he has become a super-conductor
for cold words, hot pictures and light itself
aaaaaaaaall being transmitted through his throat

2 Water (born in a year ending in 2 or 3)
helps wood but hinders fire; helped by metal but hindered by earth
with her transparent tenderness
coded with colorless violence
she is always ready to support
or sink the powerful boat
aaaaaaaaaaaaasailing south

3 Wood (born in a year ending 4 or 5)
helps fire but hinders earth; helped by water but hindered by metal
rings in rings have been opened or broken
like echoes that roll from home to home
each containing fragments of green
trying to tell their tales
aaaaaaaaaafrom the forest’s depths

4 Fire (born in a year ending 6 or 7)
helps earth but hinders metal; helped by wood but hindered by water
your soft power bursting from your ribcage
as enthusiastic as a phoenix is supposed to be
when you fly your lipless kisses
you reach out your hearts
aaaaaaaaaaaaauntil they are all broken

5 Earth (born in a year ending in 8 or 9)
helps metal but hinders water; helped by fire but hindered by wood
i think not; therefore, I am not
what I am, but I have a color
the skin my heart wears inside out
tattooed intricately
aaaaaaawith footprints of history

Changming Yuan, eight-time Pushcart nominee and author of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009) and Landscaping (2013), grew up in rural China, holds a PhD in English, and currently tutors in Vancouver, where he co-edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan and operates PP Press. Most recently interviewed by [PANK] and World Poetry [CFRO100.5FM], Changming’s poetry has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Best Canadian Poetry (2009;12), BestNewPoemsOnline, London Magazine, Threepenny Review and 829 other publications across 28 countries.