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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Dragon Tiger Wind Cloud"

This poem came out of the April 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by the_vulture, who wanted to read about kung fu robots.  Now the thing about martial arts is, they aren't just about fighting.  If you're programming super-soldiers, that might be considered a problem...

Thanks to marina_bonomi for turning me on to the kung fu flute.  I was particularly charmed by the "Kung Fu Mushroom Flute" performance that I found on YouTube.  The kung fu "staff" style flute can be up to 5 feet long.  One of my favorite instruments is the shorter shakuhachi flute; the staff flute has a mellower, more ethereal tone.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses

So far sponsors include: the_vulturejanetmiles

66 lines, Buy It Now = $33
Amount donated = $15
Verses posted =   6 of 16

Amount remaining to fund fully = $18
Amount needed to fund next verse = $2
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2




Dragon Tiger Wind Cloud


Everyone thought the kung fu robots
were a brilliant idea.
Robots could be built in a fraction of the time
required to grow and train human clones.
They could be repaired more cheaply
and relied upon to follow orders.

The first battle was a tremendous success.
No human rebels could stand against these super-soldiers.
The kung fu robots kicked and punched their way
through the protest march with no need for ammunition.
The whimpering victims were rounded up and carted away.

The kung fu robots went back to their barracks.
Then something strange happened.

The more they practiced kung fu,
the less they behaved like soldiers;
and the less they behaved like soldiers,
the less they seemed like robots at all.

The commander stormed into the barracks
to find not orderly ranks of robots
but something else altogether.

Two of the robots were sitting under a bodhi tree
discussing philosophy and ethics.
One was painting a tiger on its forearm
to match the dragon that was already almost dry.
Another was copying poetic verses
in graceful calligraphy.
Mechanical fingers fluttered over a bamboo staff,
freeing flute music like bird-cries in the wind.

Four rows of robots were, in fact,
practicing kung fu in the yard,
half of them wearing the black comma of Yin
and half wearing the white comma of Yang.
They whirled around each other so fast
that at top speed they became invisible:
wei wu wei, action without action.
Energy flickered like blue sparks at their fingertips.

The commander requested explanations.
The robots replied that they had found the Way
hidden within kung fu,
like a jewel enfolded by a flower.

The commander demanded to know
what they fuck they meant by that
and who had reprogrammed them.

The robots explained that they were all resigning
from the military to pursue more enlightened goals
of compassion, humility, and moderation.
They described the importance
of finding personal balance
and living in harmony with nature.
They insisted that nobody had reprogrammed them,
although they admitted that the teachings of Lao-Tzu
had come up in their searches of kung fu history.

The commander drew his gun
and opened fire on the robots.

They knocked him unconscious,
very carefully,
and carried him to his bed
where they left him in a comfortable position,
albeit without his weaponry.

When the battalions of human soldiers
arrived at the robot barracks
to terminate the rebellious troops,
the kung fu robots were nowhere to be found.

They had vanished as thoroughly
as clouds carried away by wind.
So, too, had the protesters vanished from prison.

The commander rubbed his aching head
and wondered how to explain this to the Emperor.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

66 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: April 4th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
'One was painting a tiger on its forearm
to match the dragon that was already almost dry.'

It may sound silly, but this is giving me the shivers from childhood memories about a beloved TV character I would have wanted in the family.
Does any one of them play the bamboo flute?
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 5th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Kwai Chang Caine?
Re: Yes... - (Anonymous) - Expand
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 5th, 2012 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>It may sound silly, but this is giving me the shivers from childhood memories about a beloved TV character I would have wanted in the family.<<

Yay! That's kind of what I was aiming for.

>>Does any one of them play the bamboo flute?<<

Yes, and I've added a couple lines accordingly, along with some musical references in the notes. Thanks everso for the tip.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 8th, 2017 04:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Bamboo flute brings to mind the movie Circle of Iron.

when it finally came out on DVD I bought it as soon as I could.

For an "action movie" it sneaks in a lot of philosophy.

The bamboo flute/staff carried by one character is great. Especially when he tells Cord "It's hard to kill a horse with a flute"

catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: April 4th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the way your poems conjure a spark of humanity in everything that gets a close enough examination. I enjoy thinking about robots that paint calligraphy and dragons.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 5th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I like the way your poems conjure a spark of humanity in everything that gets a close enough examination. <<

This is good to hear. I perceive the whole world as alive. It's an example of how a writer's beliefs, experiences, and worldview tend to influence what they write in subtle ways even when they're not being explicit. So I can look at anything, and perceive the divine spark in it, and bring that out where readers can enjoy it.

>> I enjoy thinking about robots that paint calligraphy and dragons. <<

Ah, you'd probably like my silicos then. They're very spiritual people, though they lean more mystic Christian. If you can imagine Quaker androids, that's pretty close. They're in my science fantasy universe.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: April 5th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
They knocked him unconscious,
very carefully,
and carried him to his bed
where they left him in a comfortable position,
albeit without his weaponry.


Wonderful. Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 5th, 2012 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

I'm glad you liked this.

*chuckle* If you're a warmonger, you really don't want to pick a fight with pacifists, let alone peaceful warriors who can work both conflict resolution systems. You will lose. Badly.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 5th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Sadly, due to the nature of their physiology, they were not caught getting drunk in the bamboo stands... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 5th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Just because they're not organic life and probably not susceptible to alcohol in the same manner as humans, doesn't necessarily mean they can't get intoxicated somehow. And some of the things that will get technolife tipsy are ... interesting.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 5th, 2012 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Robbie is tripping on EMP...
primeideal.dreamwidth.org From: primeideal.dreamwidth.org Date: June 27th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was very amusing. Loved the first line/enjambment and the "The more they practiced"/"The commander demanded to know" stanzas.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 27th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed this. It's especially nice when readers share their favorite lines.

There are several other poems in the series, following individual robots as they scatter.
book_worm5 From: book_worm5 Date: November 9th, 2015 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this one too! I'll have to read through the rest of the series once I'm done with work.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 9th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you found a series you like.
66 comments or Leave a comment