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Profiles from China

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Profiles from China

The Hand

As you sit so, in the firelight, your hand is the color of    new bronze.I cannot take my eyes from your hand;In it, as in a microcosm, the vast and shadowy Orient    is made visible.Who shall read me your hand?

You are a large man, yet it is small and narrow, like the    hand of a woman and the paw of a chimpanzee.It is supple and boneless as the hands wrought in pigment    by a fashionable portrait painter. The tapering    fingers bend backward.Between them burns a scented cigarette. You poise it    with infinite daintiness, like a woman under the    eyes of her lover. The long line of your curved    nail is fastidiousness made flesh.

Very skilful is your hand.With a tiny brush it can feather lines of ineffable suggestion,    glints of hidden beauty. With a little    tool it can carve strange dreams in ivory and    milky jade.

And cruel is your hand.With the same cold daintiness and skill it can devise    exquisite tortures, eternities of incredible pain,    that Torquemada never glimpsed.And voluptuous is your hand, nice in its sense of touch.Delicately it can caress a quivering skin, softly it can    glide over golden thighs…. Bilitis had not    such long nails.

Who can read me your hand? In the firelight the smoke curls up fantastically from the cigarette between your fingers which are the color of new bronze. The room is full of strange shadows. I am afraid of your hand….

From the Interior


The boats of your masters are black;They are filthy with the slimy filth of ages; like the    canals on which they float they give forth an evil    smell.On soiled perches you sit, swung out on either side over    the scummy water—you who should be savage    and untamed, who should ride on the clean breath    of the sea and beat your pinions in the strong    storms of the sea.Yet you are not held.Tamely you sit and willingly, ten wretches to a boat,    lurching and half asleep.

Around each throat is a ring of straw, a small ring, so    that you may swallow only small things, such as    your masters desire.Presently, when you reach the lake, you will dive.At the word of your masters the parted waters will    close over you and in your ears will be the gurgling    of yellow streams.Hungrily you will search in the darkened void, swiftly    you will pounce on the silver shadow….Then you will rise again, bearing in your beak the    struggling prey,And your lousy lords, whose rings are upon your    throats, will take from you the catch, giving in its    place a puny wriggler which can pass the gates of    straw.Such is your servitude.

Yet willingly you sit, lurching and half asleep.The boatmen shout one to another in nasal discords.    Lazily you preen your great wings, eagle wings,    built for the sky;And you yawn….