etymology of selfhood: a bilinguacultural poemming by Yuan Changming (Lucent Dreaming Issue 11)

Due to limited control of our formatting on posts, the formatting of the following poem is incorrect.

1/ I vs 我: Denotations

The first person singular pronoun, or this very
Writing subject in English is I, an only-letter
Word, standing straight like a pole, always
Capitalized, but in Chinese, it is written with
Lucky seven strokes as 我, with at least 108
Variations, all of which can be the object case
At the same time.
Originally, it’s formed from
The character 找, meaning ‘pursuing’, with one
Stroke added on the top, which may well stand for
Anything you would like to have, such as money
Power, fame, sex, food, or nothing if you prove
Yourself to be a Buddhist practitioner inside out

2/ Human & 人: Connotations

Since I am a direct descendant of Homo Erectus, let me
Stand straight as a human/人, rather than kneel down

When two humans walk side by side, why to coerce one
Into obeying the other like a slave fated to follow/从?

Since three humans can live together, do we really need
A leader or ruler on top of us all as a group/众?

Given all the freedom I was born with, why
Just why cage me within walls like a prisoner/囚?


Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include twelve Pushcart nominations & chapbooks (most recently LIMERENCE) besides appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17), PoetryDaily & BestNewPoemsOnline, among others. Yuan was nominated and served on the jury for Canada’s National Magazine Award (poetry category). Currently, Yuan is working on his first novel Edening.

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