Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust by DeWitt Clinton

i

Even before time or once
Upon a time or even
Before long long ago
Heaven ruled ten unruly sons
Making this place a moonscape.
Only moon dust flowered
All over the planet, in the
Oceans, in the forests,
Even in the coldest bear caves.

Time’s up said Heaven
And sent out a contract
On those hot-headed ten.
And Heaven sent Houyi, earth’s archer,
Who looked into the sky
Blazing with ten suns.
One by one each turned
Into star dust leaving one
Sun to keep the earth
From turning into all Iceland.

But Heaven mourned what
Turned her sons into
Distant star dust
And banned Houyi and goddess
Chang’e from Heaven, to live
Out their days in a burned out
Hard- as- stone earth garden.

ii

The archer and his wife found
Life on earth too miserable
To stay as they soon saw how
Each was turning older and
Older and would soon turn
As others do into dust.

Then Houyi remembered his
Queen Mother who lived
The high life here on earth
Who kept what Houyi wanted,
A few sips of a honey-laced
Elixir for the two honeymooners.

High on Mount Kunlun
Queen Mother listened to
Houyi, deliberating, of course
The what if’s he could
Not ever imagine might happen.

Half of this nectar is all you
May take to stay here and live
Out all your days and nights
Forever and forever. If

However you both are induced
With all of the elixir, you will
Lose this life, return to Heaven,
And live as you once lived,
Forever in immortality.

Houyi, exhausted but relieved,
Rested in the arms of Chang’e
Until he fell into a deep sleep.
Curious, she felt drawn
To a life of a better life
Living to see everything
Always, forever, here
As one of the only immortals.

iii

So she drank the whole portion
Forgetting of course Houyi’s
Hope of living out this life
As well, forever and forever.

Soon she fell into a deep sleep,
Began to feel weightless,
Began to float away,
Forever and forever.

But she did not float to Heaven,
She did not float back to Earth, either,
But found the Moon, and on the Moon
She lived the life of a goddess,
Doing whatever immortals do
In her Palace with her only
Company the quiet Jade Rabbit.

Upon waking, Houyi knew what
His lovely Chang’e had turned
Into, and Houyi lived out the rest
Of his days, hoeing the earth,
Turning in age, turning into dust.

In the Autumn we turn our eyes
To the Moon, and remember
Where one immortal may still be
Stepping, forever, into moon dust.

Author’s note: Adapted from the Chinese myth, Houyi and Chang’e, the Goddess of the Moon

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About the Author

  1. Avatar DeWitt Clinton (1 story )

    Two conquistador book narratives from New Rivers Press, a third book, At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), and a fourth collection in press, an adaptation of Kenneth Rexroth's 100 Poems from the Chinese.

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