Stone Telling

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Monkey, Trapped

by Emily Jiang

Part I:  At the Top of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit

It is dark in this stone,
i know i'm in stone
because it is dark

and cold, and porous,
inviting pondering


what is the purpose of dark
without light?  am i
unique?  how do i know
if i exist?  where will i go
when i die, if i have not yet
been born?  can i be born
from infertile stone?  can sound
be swallowed by silence?


i can hear the wind
a whipping, a tapping,
when i strain my ear,
pressed against stone.

and i smell something
sweet sour sticky slick
that makes my insides

oh, wait, there's a crack…

turn turn crash smash
stumble still, ding ding—

Hello, moon!

I am!

Part II:  Near the Jade Emperor's Heavenly Palace

It is dark and hot in this cauldron,
I know it's a cauldron,
Lao Tzu's specifically,
because the Emperor
called it

Lao Tzu's cauldron.
I do not like the dark.
I like the heat even less.
I do not care for this,

          not one bit.

The eight elements
prevent my escape.
Alas, I have only mastered
wind and water.  I cannot summon
my cloud.  I cannot find my stick,
which would be burnt to bits.
My hair is too damaged
to turn into many me's.


They are boiling me,
trying to distill
the peaches I ate for immortality
the pills I swallowed for invincibility
the royal wine I drank
          because I just wanted
the Emperor to notice me,
to acknowledge me as an equal
or at least higher than a servant.

Too hot.  Too hot.
Eyes burning, straining,
waiting for the right crack…

whirl whirl transform
rumble tumble ping ping—

Hello, stars!

I am free!

Part III:  Under the Hand of the Buddha

It is dark and boring under this mountain
I know it's a mountain
because the Buddha
said so, also,

it was at the base
where I relieved myself
thinking it was the tallest
mountain in the world.

          but it was!
          but it was

the Buddha's finger.
I cannot be mad at the Buddha
for making the world his hand—
he is the Buddha after all,
sealing this mountain,
his hand, with a mantra.

I cannot be mad at myself
for stopping at the world's edge
because there was no true edge—
I can see that now,
more than I can see
in this boring always dark.

          bored, so bored

But I can be mad
that the stench of my pee
from hundreds of years ago
is trapped in here with me.

I am getting light-headed
or maybe I am seeing light?

Wait, there's a crack—

Hello, Goddess!

                                   Hello, Monkey.

I am—ouch!

                                   (Sigh) It seems you have not changed.

What's this?  A crown?

                                   My gift.  A safe-measure.

Safe from what?

                                   You are going on a journey.

Can I bring my cloud?


Can I bring my stick?


Can I tumble to the edge of the world again
and fly off so the Buddha will never reach me?

                                   No.  You must journey west
                                   and guard a monk
                                   as he retrieves
                                   the teachings of Buddha.

That's too easy.  How boring.

                                   Appearances deceive.

Emily Jiang has always been comfortable with the dark. Her familiarity with Monkey King's adventures (aka The Journey to the West) is a result of listening to stories told by her dad, watching wuxia movies, and studying formal translations in university. Her favorite Monkey King retelling is that of her cousin, who verbally translated the entire manga series of Dragon Ball Z, complete with sound effects. Given the choice between stick or cloud, she would choose eyes that can open any crack. Emily's poetry has also been published at Strange Horizons and Goblin Fruit and is forthcoming at Weird Tales.

Audio Recording:
Na'amen Tilahun is familiar with the character of the Monkey King thanks to Gene Yuan's American Born Chinese and various movies viewed during high school anime club meetings. He loves exploring the serious side of traditional tricksters, who are truly at heart misunderstood underdogs, especially those that try to conquer the world. Given the choice between wind and water, he would choose fire with a sprinkle of cinnamon for flavor. Na'amen's fiction has been published in Collective Fallout and his poetry can be found in FAGGOT DINOSAUR.

Photography: Pingyao Stone Monkey, by Tom Wachtel.