Chinese Zodiac

by Andrew Bowen


I am the snake ancient and wise
look deeply in my jeweled eyes
and see your future all
dark with uncertain hope.
I shed my skin of stars and bite my tail
to launch the great cycles of birth and death.
I was the first and I shall be the last.

I am the ox, patient and slow,
but strong and confident; I know
I could bear the world
entire on my back.
I bear the gashing yoke and plod the field
because true greatness lies in serving all
and plowing straight rows for the days to come.

I am the dog, the friend of youth,
intelligent, but still uncouth,
a mix of gold and lead
in one small furry ball.
I lap up vomit, yet none ever had
a truer friend; my howls will mourn your death
and happy barks signal the start of life.

I am the sheep, so calm and meek,
I shun strife, yet I am not weak
because I know the herd
will live after my death.
I gather strength and pride from kin and fields
and feel the joy of being one of many
who share the same work, play, pain, life, and death.

I am the dragon, soaring high;
with flame and fang I rule the sky
and teach majesty to
all things beneath the clouds.
My rage conceals much knowledge and my fires
are just the bellows of life itself; I
am power and the stuff of blazing suns.

I am the tiger, fierce and bold;
I am the vital force that holds
to life and maintains honor
in times of death and dark.
My ceaseless roar heralds the birth of stars;
my appetite is God’s wisdom and
my power cries that life can’t be undone.

I am the rat, adept and vile;
the death of infants lights my smile
and all the works of man
are mine to profane, aaahhh!
Stare deeply in my crimson eyes and know
that even vermin have a place in life
to light the flame of goodness, shame, and mercy.

I am the monkey, quick, and spry,
and thirsty for the know of why
scents, touches, sounds, and sights
are melded into glory.
I clamber up a rope of silver stars
and chitter ballads of magic and love;
my foolish eyes conceal the awe of all.

I am the boar, gallant and strong,
alive with zeal to right every wrong
and make this frenzied world
a better, brighter sty.
My tusks confront the wicked and the proud,
my tendons batter paths of righteousness;
my tasks will never end until my end.

I am the horse, a gorgeous brawn,
and when I run it’s like the dawn
of sweetest youth, a motion
beyond the scope of words.
Beauty may be a fleeting song, but life
is pitiless like desert suns and I
provide the only shade from slower death.

I am the cock, so proud and vain;
when all have left, I shall remain
to crow at dark and light
just for my own pleasure.
Empty of brains, devoid of spirit, I
stand proud on legs of fire and shout in thunder
that nothing kills this proud thing: I! I!! I!!!

I am the rabbit, quiet and mild,
soft, yes, but also fey and wild;
though I must hide in grass
I will inherit Earth.
I counter force with numbers, and my speed
offsets the sprawl of man and buildings; calm
is blunter than swords, but it always wins.


Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Bowen

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