Thursday, February 20, 2020

FARM BOY AT SUNSET 


The foolish
young man

thinking he can
be a poet,

a weed among
flowers.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

IS IT ENOUGH 


Is it enough
for the poet,

like a man
loving his wife,

simply to point
where he is going?



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

THE CRANES HAVE 


The cranes have
already

turned grey, turned
south towards

their winter home.



VIEW FROM SOUTH MOUNTAIN 


From the top of
South Mountain
I see

North Mountain
and everything
between,

the city,
the desert,
the cactus,

dust the color
of blossoms.



Monday, February 17, 2020

BLACK-BLADED 


Black-bladed
crow waiting

for snow
where in his

sky is joy.



AFTER THE CHINESE MASTERS 

AFTER LI CHING-JAU'S
"TUNE: SPRING IN WU-LING"

The wind has stopped.
The dust is pungent.

The flowers are gone.
Evening comes.

I comb my tired hair.
His things remain

but he is gone.
His life is over.

I want to speak, I try,
the tears come rushing.

I hear spring is lovely
still at Double Creek

and I like to go there,
sailing, but I fear

the tiny boats they have
won't carry my sorrow.

~

AFTER SOME LINES
BY GAU SHR FROM "HEARING
JANG LI-BEN'S DAUGHTER SING"

She is alone
in the courtyard
enjoying the night.

With a jade hairpin
she taps the beat
on a tree trunk

and -- high and clear --
she sings her song:
"The moon is like frost."

~

AFTER BAI JYU-YI'S
"AN INVITATION TO
MY FRIEND LYOU"

Green scum on
the new wine.

A red clay
warming pot.

Evening comes,
snow with it.

Won't you drink
a cup with me?

~

AFTER SOME LINES
BY CHYEN CHI
FROM "SEEING OFF
A MONK RETURNING
TO JAPAN"

The moon
on the water

understands
the stillness

of Zen. Even
the fish can

hear your prayers.
Old friend,

I will cherish
your wisdom

across the ten
thousand miles

between us.

~

AFTER BAI JYU-YI'S
"NIGHT RAIN"

A late cricket
chirps and pauses.

The lamp
sputters and flares.

I know it's raining
outside the window.

I heard it first
among the trees.

~


SHUDDER 


Shudder
of leaf

crossing
the road --

another
lesson in

eternity.



Sunday, February 16, 2020

A FALLEN LEAF 


A fallen leaf
squats like a toad

wishing for
longer summer.



FOR POETS, PRIZES 


For poets,
prizes are gifts

when they are
not sought.

Grace,
like wisdom,

cannot be
bought.



Saturday, February 15, 2020

DO NOT 


Do not
race me.

I am
the wind.

I am
going

to win.



IF I SPOKE 


If I spoke
with stones
in my mouth

would I be
any less
the poet?

You heart will
know the truth
you hear.



Friday, February 14, 2020

CURL-TAILED 


Curl-tailed
squirrel

in the autumn-
colored

tree. He
doesn't

know what
he is

emblem
of, and

doesn't
care.



AFTER THE CHINESE MASTERS 

AFTER WANG WEI'S
"WEI CITY SONG"

Morning rain
lays the dust.

The willows
at the inn

are fresh, green.
Have another

cup of wine
with me, yes?

West of here
you won't have

such good friends.

~

AFTER LI PO'S
"SPRING LONGING"

There where you are
the northern grasses must
be bright, green threads.

Here the mulberry trees
hang heavy with spring.
Husband, come home.

The randy wind is
stirring the curtains
around my bed.

~

AFTER LADY NIGHT'S
"SONG OF AUTUMN"

She opens the window,
lets in the moonlight,

puts out the candle,
takes off her dress.

She climbs into bed,
smiling, and adjusts

her body. It is more
fragrant than orchids.

~

AFTER YAU YWE-HAW'S
"HE DOES NOT COME"

I have waited
and waited for him,
candles lit,
the wine cups full.

I've gone out to watch
and come back in.
The sky has already
started to brighten.

The moon is going down,
the stars are disappearing,
and still I wait.
He does not come.

Now I hear a magpie
beating its wings among
the willows and stealing
my happiness away.

~

AFTER THREE LINES
BY LI CHING-JAU
FROM "TUNE: TIPSY IN
THE FLOWERS' SHADE"

Don't say my soul
is not weary.

As curtains fade
in light and wind,

I'm a wilting
chrysanthemum.

~


NIGHT IS 


Night is night
and moonlight
is like the snow.

How do we get
home from here?



Thursday, February 13, 2020

NOTHING IS 


Nothing is
so lovely

as the girl
who doesn't

know she is.



THIS HERMITAGE 


This hermitage
is wider than

loneliness,
larger than

my imagining.



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

I MUST SPEND 


I must spend
more time
standing in
wind learning

to fly like
sky, grasses,
leaves, learning
to let go,

to go.
I could stand
in sun, or
shadow,

either -- it
won't matter --
for when
I finally

flee this
body there
will be light
on the

other side,
and darkness,
and there will
be plenty

of flying
to keep pace
with that great
ache of stars.



NOT THE BIRD 


Not the bird
but a shadow

of the bird
against the last

green leaves
of autumn.



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

SHOULD WE CONVERSE 


Should we converse
for more than

an hour
the way they

did, those whales
I listened to,

two adults and
a youngster,

giving call and
response, call

and response,
the young one

almost purring,
as if to say,

Do not go so far
I cannot follow.



POET'S DILEMMA 


How to howl
the value

of the vowel
so they will

know all is
not lost.



Monday, February 10, 2020

THE TREES ARE 


The trees are
teaching the wind
what it means
to love the earth.

The wind is
teaching the trees
what it means
to be sky.

The earth does not
teach anything.
It has trees and sky
and the dirt it needs.



AFTER THE CHINESE MASTERS 

AFTER SOME LINES
FROM CHOU PANG-YEN'S
"TUNE: PRINCE LAN-LING"

We stand
on the bridge

under the moon
listening

to flutes.
The past

is a dream
with tears.

~

AFTER KUAN HAN-CH'ING'S
"TUNE: VAST VIRTUE"

Wind is what wind is
and rain is rain.

No one sleeps.
Sadness is an old shirt

and rain is sorrow.
Cicadas and crickets

have gone quiet.
There's nothing here

now but rain,
beating the leaves.

~

AFTER MA CHIH-YUAN'S
"TUNE: SONG OF CLEAR RIVER"

The moon is low.
The woodcutter rises.

An old fisherman
stops for a visit.

One puts aside
his axe, the other

leaves his boat.
So much depends

on where they sit.

~

AFTER WANG WEI'S
"ANSWER TO VICE-PREFECT CHANG"

In my last years
I want only
quiet. Your business

is none of mine.
I have no plans
but staying home,

listening to wind
fill the pines,
loosening my belt,

and playing
my guitar beneath
the mountain moon.

You ask my advice.
I say: sing like
a fisherman.

~

AFTER WANG CHANG-LING'S
"BORDER SONG"

My horse drinks
crossing the river,

the water cold,
wind like a knife.

The sun is setting
beyond these sands.

Once there were
high-spirited battles

where the Long Wall
begins here. Now

only yellow dust
remains, and --

among some weeds --
naked bones.

~

SOLITUDE 


Solitude
is a chosen

loneliness,
the old monk

said, before
he disappeared

into silence.



Sunday, February 09, 2020

LONELINESS OF THE POET 


It is deeper
than a river,
running near

rough mountains,
the immense
loneliness

of the poet.
Solitude is
where the soul

sings its own
song, finally.
You must want

it, or else
a black wind
comes and hides

the distance from
where you are
to where you are.



THERE ARE NO / WORDS 


There are no
words for saying
nothing, so

why do I
try and keep
trying?

The stillness
doesn't stop
singing.



Saturday, February 08, 2020

BARK OF THE TREE 


Bark of the tree,
a ragged pine,

the aged face of
one of your own.

You turn away,
thinking the world

does not need
such cross-species

love. Then you turn
back, knowing

we can't live
without it.



A SILENCE 


A silence
late at night.
You try to

write a poem
to charge the
darkness with

furious light.
A train in
the distance

promises
another
dawn. At this

hour you take
what you get,
any sound

which pleases.
More than that
is wasted.



Friday, February 07, 2020

IN THIS LINE 


In this line, only the thing
doing what the thing does.

In this line, another thing
also doing what it does.

These things are not alike
and yet are not so different.

If we wait, patient, we might
hear them resonate. You can't

prove this by commanding
proof. Proof is a false kind

of solace in any case.
You simply wait. You listen.

You look at what is. You see
the largeness about it, which

is where the poetry is.



AFTER THE CHINESE MASTERS 

AFTER LU YOU'S
"I WANT TO GO OUT
BUT IT'S RAINING"

An east wind
blows rain, enough
to bother

the wanderer.
The whole road's
a mess, mud

where there
had been dust.
The flowers

and willows
are sleepy-
eyed. Spring

itself seems
sluggish.
And -- who knew --

your poet
is even
more lazy.

~

AFTER WANG WEI'S
"BAMBOO GROVE"

I sit here alone
among the dark trees,

strumming my guitar,
singing. The forest

is deep and no one
can hear me. The moon

is my only friend.

~

AFTER WEI YING-WU'S
"AUTUMN NIGHT:
A LETTER SENT TO CH'IU"

Autumn and night.
I am thinking
of you. I am

walking, speaking
to stars. In the
empty mountains

pine cones fall. Am
I the only
one still awake?

~

AFTER LI PO"S
"HEARING THE FLUTE
IN THE CITY OF LOYANG
IN A SPRING NIGHT"

Whose jade flute
sings in darkness

riding spring wind
across the city?

Hearing that tune
who would not

long for home?

~

AFTER LI YU'S
"THE BEAUTIFUL LADY YU"

Spring flowers,
an autumn moon.

Where does it end?
What do we know?

Last night again
an east wind

under bright moon.
I couldn't bear

to think of home,
house still lovely,

the people old now.
How much sorrow

can we carry?
Life is a river

flowing away.

~


SO, YES 


So, yes, we
must speak two
languages,

one which sounds
in the mouth,

the other
which speaks for
the stillness.



Thursday, February 06, 2020

IN A DARKNESS 


In a darkness
where sudden light

is terror
the heart gallops

like a horse with
a strange rider.

Dust and a taste
of wind, then the slow

walk back to where
they began.



BLACK HOLE 


Black hole at
the Milky
Way's center

taking us
the same way
the hole at

the heart of
love does, the
emptiness

so heavy
with grief.



Wednesday, February 05, 2020

DARKNESS IS NOTHING 


Darkness is nothing
other than darkness.

Do not take it for
loneliness, nor for

sorrow. Do not think
that a heart has turned

away. The night is
the night; pain is pain:

each its own thing. That's
all you have to say.



NOTICING MERWIN 


He said "thymes"
and I heard

"rhymes" and saw
the stony plain

and the rain.



Tuesday, February 04, 2020

IF THE STARS THEMSELVES 


If the stars themselves
did not die, we might

hope we could live for-
ever. That would be

the last foolishness
for an old poet

like me, for death is
not something to be

worried of. It's the
left hand of a right-

handed life, natural
as breathing. Indeed

it is another
kind of breath, the last

one you get in this
body's physical

configuration.
You may think loss is

all you get out of
it, but listen to

the stars. They will tell
you: when one star dies

it becomes the stuff
to make other stars.



ANY SONG 


I, III-m, VI-m, II-m, V, I
Any song you know

you know your way home.



Monday, February 03, 2020

OR PERHAPS 


Or perhaps
at death
we fly off

as the Sand-
hill Crane
does, because

another
season
urges us.



AFTER THE CHINESE MASTERS 

AFTER LIU TSUNG-YUAN'S
"MORNING WALK IN AUTUMN
TO SOUTH VALLEY PASSING
AN ABANDONED VILLAGE"

Autumn has turned.
The frost is heavy.
I rise early

and walk the valley.
Yellowed leaves
cover the bridge

above the river.
Aging trees,
a deserted village,

some few dead flowers.
A secluded spring
you can barely hear.

I've already forgotten
what startled
the shy young deer.

~

AFTER LI PO'S
"QUESTION AND ANSWER
IN THE MOUNTAINS"

Go ahead, ask me
why I live here.

I will answer
with only a smile.

I am a man
at ease, content

as peach blossoms
floating on water.

There are many worlds
not like yours.

~

AFTER TU FU'S
"TRAVELING AT NIGHT"

A small wind
in the grasses
along the river,

my boat alone
in the darkness.
The stars hang

all the way
down onto
the wide plains.

The moon leaps
the universe.
Poetry has not

made me famous.
Now I'm old
and failing

and I've had to
quit my job.
With the wind

against me,
I'm only
a sand gull

caught somewhere
between earth
and heaven.

~

AFTER LADY NIGHT'S
"SONG OF SPRING"

Spring woods,
and the flowers
are lovely.

The birds, though,
are making
sad sounds.

And the wind
has a mind
of its own:

it blows my silk
skirt open.

~

AFTER MENG HAO-JAN'S
"SPRING SUNRISE"

I wake after
sunrise. Every-

where the birds are
noisy. I heard

the wind and rain
all night knocking

down the flowers--
who knows how many.

~


BRIGHTNESS 


Brightness
like fire
in the fog.

Autumn turns
its other face.



Sunday, February 02, 2020

IN DEFENSE OF POETRY 


Poetry needs no defense.

It is as a snake is in the grass,
as a thunderstorm comes at us from the west,
as a knife glistens in moonlight.

It is the blood on the knife.
The silence of the owl, even as it strikes.
The stillness after love, as we fall back to our own bodies.

Poetry is that which can say itself
whether you choose to listen or not.



THE 


poem
is an

old stone
jar. Let's

ladle
some wine

out, let's
get drunk.



Saturday, February 01, 2020

WE KEEP SMASHING 


We keep smashing
atoms, looking

for a smaller
particle, as if

the Higgs' Boson
could tell us the

final secret.
It can't. Instead

we need to look
in the other

direction, towards
the great largeness

of those things more
amazing than mere

scientific
understanding.



TURKEY VULTURE LOVE 


Turkey vulture
says that love is

someone to share
your roadkill with.



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