Emptying the Cup
by Su Ruoxi tr. Fan Jinghua
When my body is no longer solid
I would like to flow into my longed-for vessel
No more willful outflow
Only a stripe of my body will be clad with night breeze
I have enjoyed vanity
Having attended his banquet
Eyes waiting on his lips that mumble for a poem
by Su Ruoxi tr. Fan Jinghua
Mother, you have a U-turn
By the side of that man
You are my cruelest matrix
Leave love, geography, maze and truth to me
For I love
That location which lulls me into deep sleep
Being close is beauty
Being born is beauty
But we do not know we’d knock on the door of misery together.
In this group of poems, several themes can be educed. First of all, there is the fundamental theme that a woman writer may intuitively feel. This feel can be understood in terms of Sexton’s being a "witch." Her witchery is not evil, it is not demonism, and she does not need to exorcise. There is no force to attract her to a road of evil destruction. In "Experience," the witchcraft becomes the bed curtains of the god, who is created by her need to be her servant. The god is conceived as both her father and lover. In "Writing," the evoked Him can hold her in his arms. In creative acts, she has no fear of the fall of darkness. This leads to the second theme: creation.
Artistic creation for women may be understood in term of procreation, and apparently the poet is not yet ready to write about child-birth. The moon is still the image of sexual love, whose circle as in "The Broken Moon" is closely related with His coming and going. The moon is related with witch, no doubt. She is certain of its sound of haunting. Of course, the poet has written more than one poem on the moon, and the moon may be just another symbol of the power she hopes to manipulate. In "July," the moon is the field she can harvest, but not only does her own instrument become rusty but also she herself cannot stand still on the moon’s body, resulting in being named by others. The moon may be understood as the object of her evocation and location for her self-empowerment, no matter whether it proves her failure.
Failure may be understood as the third theme in these poems, or her poetry. The poem "The Broken Moon" is essentially about a paradox between empowerment and dis-empowerment. So is "July." The self-disempowerment is also an implied theme in "Emptying the Cup." The speaker starts with a wish to be fluid. That is to say, her self-perception is that she is too angular now. The longed-for vessel can be interpreted as the traditional symbol of matrix or womb, the lullaby of femininity, just as another conventional symbol "pearl mussel" implies. This theme is almost identified with the theme of writing act itself. In "Emptying the Cup," it is the speaker herself who alone has been "waiting on his lips," who does not seem to be quite dissatisfied with her death. In “Mussels,” however, both the mother and the daughter "knock on the door of misery together."
Writing, for the speaker, is the knock on the door of misery, and of course this again returns to the theme of maternity-witch power. Writing is a kind of witchcraft. We can interpret that the daughter is still not a mother and that the mother(ness) is still one essential source for her, like memory. Memory is not only what she has experienced and owned, but also what she shares with her memory. In creation or procreation, the mother-daughter is linked, and while the mother will grow old and "tired," aligning with her shadow only, as shown in "Wood Ear," the daughter can still resort to sexual love and further anticipate the beautiful intimacy and giving-birth as shown in "Mussels."