A New Pearl on Old Broadway   Wednesday, August 29, 2012





Template  acting really weird, so posting before I  lose the whole damn  post.

My anthology this week is 300 Tang Poems, translation and notes by Innes Herdan. The book was published in 1987 by the Far East  Book Company. 

The Tang Dynasty ruled China for nearly 300 years, from  618 to 907. It was preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li  family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty (October 8, 690 – March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an(present-day Xi'a), which at the time was the most populous city in the world, is generally regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal to, or surpassing that of, the earlier Han Dynasty—a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, rivalled that of the Han Dynasty. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records estimated the population by number of registered households at about 50 million people. Yet, even when the central government was breaking down in the 9th century there as many as 80 million people under its rule.

With its large population base, the dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road. Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system. Besides political hegemony, the Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

The Tang Dynasty is considered by most to be the greatest age of Chinese poetry, including the greatest of Chinese poets, Li  Po, Wang Wei and Tu Fu,  all  three represented in the anthology and here.


Me
the past and the future as seen from here

Li Po
Descending Chung-Nan Mountain and Meeting Hu-Ssu the Hermit Who  Entertains Me with Wine

Me
warrior queen

Mary Oliver
Mysteries, Four of the Simple Ones
Holding Benjamin
White Heron over Black Water

Me
tortured souls - and then there’s me

Han Yu
Presented Chan the Clerk on the Fifteenth Night of the Eighth  Moon

Me
the pretty young girl who mooed like a cow

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Wild Dreams of a New Beginning
At the Bodega

Me
the sixth great extinction

Wang We
From My Retreat on the River Wang, For P’ei Ti
Autumn Evening in a Mountain Hut
Written on Returning from Mount Sung

Me
one day it’s like this

Joanna M. Weston
A Book Called ‘Poems’
Embarkation

Me
the cutting room floor

Meng Hao-jan
On Stopping at an Old Friends Homestead
Written in the Ch’in Country for a Buddhist Priest, Master Yuan

Me
making movies  at Starbucks

Alex Stolis
Third Law of Thermodynamics
Pythagorean Theorem

Me
two women

Tu Fu
Climbing a Height
Spending the Night at the General’s Headquarters

Me
at this time of the year

Susan Holahan
How Light, for Example
The Park at Texas Falls

Me
the fall

Wei Chuang
Impression of Chin-Ling

Ch’en T’ao
Song of Lung Hsi

Chang Pi
For Someone

Me
can’t we all just get along










My new coffeehouse is right on the edge of all this. I hadn't been at this place in six to eight months and went there to take pictures right after I finished this poem. It's truly amazing how much work has been done in the short time since I had last visited.

I really do like San Antonio and all its  histories and legends.


the past  and the future as seen from  here

sitting
in the back of the coffeehouse,
next to the practice studios
and the recording studio,
I can see straight out, past the little round tables
and chairs and the old desk with the chess set
waiting for the regulars who play,
past all that, out the large windows
that line two walls, through the windows
to the early August morning
already warming to the day’s predicted
101 degrees, past the outdoor cafe tables,
the umbrellas folded, as they will stay folded
for another two months, waiting for a new and
cooler season, past
the folded umbrellas to Broadway,
and the cars on Broadway, moving slowly
like motes of light in summer humidity, people
late to work, people who on this hot day
don’t care about being late to work, who, in fact,
will conspire in the afternoon to leave work an hour
early, driving slowly south on Broadway the few short blocks
to the shadowed streets of tall buildings downtown,
Broadway, itself, coming awake after years of sleeping,
high-rise apartments going up on one side of the street,
the great limestone castle that was the Pearl Brewery
on the other side, the brewery, a city landmark
in the process of rejuvenation, a new stop on the latest Riverwalk
extension, crowded now with construction workers,
as the four blocks of its boundary become a hive
of shops and restaurants and bars, the last bottle
of Pearl beer served twenty years ago, the castle gone
quiet, dusty and deserted then, awakening now
to new life, a day and late into the night life
of music and food and crowds and mariachis and women
in bright wide skirts dancing, and Broadway, the old street
running through the middle of it all, quiet, dusty and deserted
for many years but for the addicts and drunks and whores,
one of the oldest and most storied streets
of the city, the street that became a street
you drove without stopping,
windows closed tight, that street
cleaning up now, washing it’s face and hands,
shining it’s shoes, preparing to put its best foot
forward, the whores and addicts and drunks
still around somewhere and no one really cares where,
as long as it’s not here…

like the street cleaners who follow along after the
Fiesta parade, picking up the debris and confetti
of pomp and multicolored spectacle, the street is being cleaned
and the parade will come again
and the street will be alive again, lively,
with new music as the dead despairing songs
of it last years are swept away…

I can see all this from where I sit,
looking past the studios
and the tables and chairs,
past the great windows and the August morning,
past the slow, sleepy workers,
past all that in-between to
to the street as it unfolds
its new vision

and
being old,
I rejoice, as I always do
when I see the old and disconsolate
becoming young and vital
again









Might as  well start  at  the top of  the food chain with this poem by Li  Po.

Regarded by many Chinese as their greatest poet,  Li was in 701, probably in Turkestan. He left about 725 for what would be a lifetime of wandering. He never set up his own home, never  sat for the official examinations and was never given any official appointment, probably due in part to his irresponsible nature and over-fondness for wine. He was for some time a Court Poet, but was implicated in some political disturbances and imprisoned for some months, but was eventually pardoned. His adventures and personality, along with his  poetic gifts earned him the nickname of the "Banished Immortal."

He died in 762, drowning, when, according to legend, he fell, drunk, out of a boat while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon in the water.


Descending Chung-Nan Mountain and Meeting Hu-Ssu the Hermit Who Entertains Me with Wine

At dusk
     I come down the green mountain;
The mountain moon
     travels along with me.
Looking back
     over the path I followed -
Blue, blue the mist
     across the middle hills.

You lead me by the hand
     towards your cottage;
A young lad
     opens the wicket gate:
Green of the bamboos
     invades the dim pathway,
Blue wisteria
     touches my clothes  as  I pass.

Happily I cry -
     "Here is somewhere to rest!"
Delicious wind
     passes from hand to hand.
Long we  chant
     the "Wind in the pines" song:
The  stars are almost set
     when our singing ends.










The next poem is from 2006. I've used it here before, but it's one of my favorites because of the insight I gained from seeing what I  saw and writing about it.  I assume the girl is a Veteran, but I have no way of knowing that beyond the confidence with which she carried herself.


warrior queen

she walks,
no, not walks,
strides,
with the air
of a warrior  queen,
her short  skirt
flowing
with every step,
swished
by her  swinging hips
in waves
like froth on a swelling sea...

her left leg,
firm and tan,
flexing
with every step
and the other
a construct
of metal parts
like the cyborg
in the first  Terminator
rising
from the flames
free of  artificial flesh
that hid the true power
of its titanium frame,
the girl's leg just like  that,
a beautiful machine
of gleaming rods
and levers and joints
that move  smoothly
like oil on glass
with every step...

how can we  not
be entranced
when something
usually dark
and hidden from us
is revealed
in all its unexpected
beauty











From my library, I have three poems this week by Mary Oliver. The poems are from her book, New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, published by Beacon Press in 2005.

Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, was born in 1935 n Maple Heights, Ohio, a semi-rural suburb of Cleveland. When she was she 17 visited the home of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in  upper New York state, became friends with the poet's sister, became friends, and "more or less lived there for the next six or seven years, running around the 800 acres like a child," and helping Norma with organizing the late poet's papers.


Mysteries, Four of the Simple Ones

How does the seed-grain feel
when it is just beginning to be wheat?

And how does the catbird feel
when the blue eggs break and become little catbirds,

maybe on midsummer night's eve,
and without fanfare?

And how does the turtle feel as she covers her eggs
with the sweep of her feet,
then leaves them for the world to take care of?

Does she know her accomplishment?

And when  the blue heron, breaking his long breast feathers,
sees one feather fall, does he know I will find it?
Will he see me holding it in my hand

as he opens his wings
softly and without a sound  -
ashe  rises and floats over the water?

And this is just any day at the edge of the pond,
a black  and leafy pond without a name
until I named it.

And what else can we do when the mysteries present themselves
but hope to  pluck from the basket the brisk words
that will applaud them,

the heron, the turtle, the catbird, the seed-grain
kneeling in the dark earth, its body
opening i9nto the golden world?


Holding Benjamin

No use to tell him
that he

and the raccoons  are brothers.
You have your soft ideas about nature,

he has others,
and they are full of his

white teeth
and lip that curls, sometimes,

horribly,
you love

this earnest dog,
but also you admire the raccoon

and Lord help you in your place
of hope and improbables.

To the black-masked gray one:
Run! you say,

and just as urgently, to the dog:
Stay!

and he won't or he will,
depending

on more than I could name.
He's sure he's right

and you, so tangled in your mind,
are wrong,

through patient and pacific.
And you are downcast.

And it's his eyes, not yours,
that are clear and bright.


White Heron Rises Over Blackwater

I wonder
  what it  is
      that I will accomplish
         today

of anything
   can be called
      that marvelous word.
         It won't be

my kind of work,
   which is only putting
      words on a page,
         the pencil

halting calling up
   the light of the world,
      yet noting appearing on paper
         half as bright

as the mockingbird's
   verbal hilarity
      in the still unleafed shrub
         in the churchyard -

or the white heron
   rising
      over the swamp
         and the darkness,

his yellow eyes
   and broad wings wearing
      the light of the world
         in the light of the world -

ah yes, I see him.
   He is exactly
      the poem
         I wanted to write today
  









I'm hoping that the pain of creations is not directly related to the quality of the product.


tortured souls and then there’s me

there was a beautiful
silver
crescent moon
at 6 this morning,
hanging like a skyhook
against the pale dawning sky
and below it
a bright star and above it
another bright star
and if I was a poet I’d know
the names of both those bright stars
and twenty-eight rhymes
for each
but I don’t know that
and in fact
don’t have a single poetic
thought this morning
after writing “silver, crescent moon,
blabbidy, blabbidy,”
so I couldn’t write a poem about the moon
and it’s attendant, mystery stars
anyway...

so
instead
I’ll write a poem I was thinking
of yesterday,
about some poets
who would be crushed by the aforementioned
poetic failure,
the long-suffering poet types
with dark, haunted eyes
who are mystery to me
as they always seem to suffer so,
even when they write a good poem
that would make me
sing
and dance
and cry out, hotdamn, look what I just did
if I wrote it

instead
they’d moan
how they missed the beauty of their
inner angel’s incandescent visions of
heaven or how sad it is that they didn’t identify
any answers to the mysteries of life
or solutions to the ills of mankind
or what a shame
they couldn’t come up with
a proper prayer
to rent
the curtains
of eternal damnation that
await us all
and
moan moan
how demanding is this curse of poetry
and they’ll probably
never
write a poem again
for weeks or months or years
or day after tomorrow…

me…

I just do it for the fun
and all the
fluttering
disappointed
hearts and haunted looks
remind me of the joke
about the guy who goes to a doctor
waving his arm around,
saying,
doc,
it hurts when I do this,
what do your
recommend, and the doctor responds

well,
quit doing that









The next poem from the Tang anthology is Han Yu. Born in 768, the poet died in 824. He was known  as an  assiduous scholar and enjoyed a successful career, holding many offices and rising in prominence to become President of the Board of Rites. Better known as an essayist than poet, he initiated a revival of Confucianism and the decline of Buddhism in China and to the rise of Neo-Confucianism of the later Sung philosophers.


Presented to Chang the Clerk on the Fifteenth Night of the Eighth Moon

Filmy clouds from the four  quarters;
     Heaven has lost  its stars;
A clean wind sweeps through space,
     moonlight flows in ripples.
On level  sands and quiet waters
     sound and shadow cease.
I beg you, drink a cup   of wine
     and sing a song for me.
The notes of  your song are harsh,
     the words  bitter  indeed -
My tears  run like rain
     before I have heard to the end.

Where  Tung-t'ing meets the sky
     and Chiu-I soars,
Dragon and crocodile rise and vanish,
     apes and raccoons yelp.
Nine chances of dying to ten of life
     to reach this post,
In rooms so silent and still
     as if we had gone into hiding!
We are fearful of snakes when we  rise  from bed,
     of poison when we eat;
Air from the sea clammy and damp,
     Its odor rank and musty...











Another day, another encounter in the Twilight  Zone. It's from 2006.


the pretty young girl who mooed like a cow


pert,
petite,
dressed for the summer
in halter
and capri pants,
open-eyed alert
and eager with a question
about where she could find
tickets for the Fiesta
oyster-bake

I tried to help
but everyplace I suggested
she had already been
but it was nice talking to her
because she seemed
young
and fresh
and I am not

then she laughed

not  at anything I said
but something
she said herself that I didn't hear
but she seemed to think it was great
because she laughed, mouth
wide open, stretched wide open
like she was trying to stretch
the edges of her mouth
from ear to ear -
literally

and she mooed

like a cow in a pasture,
she mooed

ooooooooooooooooooo

then, again,
without taking a breath,

ooooooooooooooooooooo

since I was fourteen years old
something 
like this always happens,
every time
I get to talk
to a pretty young girl

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

and it turns into
another encounter
in a Twilight Zone rerun








Next from my library,  I have two poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from his book Wild Dreams of a New Beginning. The book was published by New Directions in 1988, combining two previous New Directions editions, Who Are We Now in 1976 and Landscapes of Living & Dying in 1979.


Wild Dreams of a New Beginning

There's a breathless hush on the freeway tonight
Beyond the ledges of concrete
restaurants fall into dreams
with candlelight couples
Lost Alexandria  still burns
in a billion light bulbs
Lives cross lives
idling at stoplights
Beyond the cloverleaf turnoffs
"Souls eat souls in the general emptiness"
A piano concerto comes out a kitchen window
A yogi speaks at Ojai
"It's all taking place in one mind"
On the lawn among the trees
lovers  are listening
for the master to tell them they are one
with the universe
Eyes smell flowers and become them
There's a deathless hush
on the freeway tonight
as a Pacific tidal wave a mile high
                                                         sweeps in

Los Angeles breathes its last gasp
and sinks into the sea like the Titanic all lights lit
Nine minutes later Willa Cather's Nebraska
                                                                   sinks with it

The seas come in over  Utah
Mormon tabernacles  washed away like barnacles
Coyotes are confounded & swim nowhere
An orchestra onstage in Omaha
keeps on playing Handel's  Water Music
Horns fill with water
and players float away on their instruments
clutching them like lovers horizontal
Chicago's Loop becomes a rollercoaster 
Skyscrapers filled like water  glasses
Great Lakes mixed with  Buddhist brine
Great Books watered down  in Evanston
Milwaukee beer topped with sea foam
Beau Fleuve of Buffalo  suddenly becomes salt
Manhattan Island swept clean in sixteen seconds
as the great wave sweeps Eastward
to wash away over-age Camembert Europe
Manhattan steaming in sea-vines
the washed land awakes again to wilderness
the only sound a vast thrumming of crickets
a cry of seabirds high over
in empty eternal night
as the Hudson retakes its thickets
and Indians reclaim their canoes


At The Bodega

The hot young stud flamenco dancer
                                                dressed like a bullfighter
        has fast feet like little animals
                                       with their own identities
                                          and a life of their own
                     having nothing at all to  do
                                                         with the rest of him
                                 which watches
                                            as they do the dancing
And each insolent gesture
                                      which the body makes
       and each arrogant pose
                                              that body takes
                                                         exactly like a toreador

               telling the woman he whirls around
                                 "I am your master
                                     you cannot touch me
                                        And in the end
                                           I will bring you
                                              to my feet
                                                with this
                                                    white handkerchief"
                                                          






I don't know what you would call this, but it's a pretty fair rant.


the sixth great extinction

Five times in our mother’s history she has spit out the life she nurtured.

The first time was 440 million years ago, so long ago that it was only in the teeming brine that life had arisen, when twenty-five percent of all those living marine families were destroyed

(A biologic family being as many as thousands of species.)

It was the same so very old story, climate change, that brought this reign of death to the new - as geologic time counts - planet.

The seeds were planted for the sixth great extinction about a hundred thousand years ago when the first modern humans began to disperse throughout the world, and everywhere that humans went, death was sure to follow. Large species and small fell to lost primordial memory, from human aggression and disease. The human’s closest cousin, the Neanderthal, after nearly half a million years at home in Europe, lasted less than ten thousand years after the arrival of man.

And those seeds of destruction sprouted about ten thousand years ago with the invention of agriculture and everywhere that humans farmed the extinction of species accelerated .

Previous extinctions were the usually the result of climate change caused by natural factors, such as plate tectonics movements on a global scale, or massive volcanoes, or meteor impacts.

But for this, the sixth great extinction, our own great extinction, we are the plague that infects, like ever-spreading disease-carrying lice, the entire world around us.

~~~

we are the plague,
builders of the castles
that eat the sand
and dry up the seas
that breaks on its shore

we are the anti-life,
the smiling skull,
the death,
the destroyer-gods
of our Mother’s creation

even as we sit
sipping beer before our television,
the tendrils of our
unintended
malevolence spread
beneath us

even as we love all that we destroy,
even as the end approaches,
we deny our guilt,
never meaning to harm
any of it

it is just our nature,
you know,
for we are death
and death is what we do
so well








Next, from the anthology, I have three short poems by Wang Wei.

Consider what it  must be to be one of the three greatest poets in a tradition that stretches over thousands of years.


From My Retreat on the River  Wang, for P'ei Ti

The colours of the cold mountain
     have turned  to emerald;
The autumn river gurgles on
     day after day.
Leaning on my staff
     before the wicket gate,
I hear the cicadas' chirp
     carried on the evening wind.
Beyond the ferry-head
     the sun is just setting;
A solitary plume of smoke
     rises above the village.
I met you just now, tipsy as Chieh Yu:
How wildly you sang to me - a "Mr. Five-Willows"!

(Mr. Five-Willows, nickname  for  a famous scholar-poet of a earlier  dynasty with whom Wang compares himself.)


Autumn Evening in a Mountain Hut

Rain freshly fallen on the bare mountain;
the air full of autumn in the dusk.
A bright moon peers between the pines;
A clear stream bubbles over the stones.

Clamour in the bamboos -
     the washer-girls are returning;
The lotus stirs
     and down come the fisher-boats.
Though the sweet grass of spring has withered,
Why not linger here, my prince of friends?


Written on Returning from Mount Sung

A clear stream  ribbons through the long moors.
My horse and carriage  amble on,  clop clop.
the water flows
     as if it had a will;
Birds homing at dusk
     keep me company.
There are crumbling walls
     down by the ancient ford;
The autumn hills
     are awash in the sunset.
It  was a long descent from the peak of Mount Sung:
On reaching home I shall close my door on the world











The next  poem  is from 2005. I'm not sure if I used  it here recently or  if I just thought about using it here recently.

So, either, here it is again or here it is  finally.


one day it's like this

it  seems you
never recognize
a turn in the road
until you've passed it

one  day
it's like this
and the next
like that
and for a while
it  seems like
nothing has changed

but then you begin
to notice things

sighs that come
like a quick wind
through the trees

here
then gone

unpredicted
by the quiet still
before and after

or a drifting of
attention
when you talk
a cheek poised
instead of lips
for a kiss
good-bye

then the moment
she says
I want to  talk
and your say
about what
and she says
about  us
and you say
what about us
and she says

never mind

and you know
the moment's passed

the turn is made

one  day it was like this
but now it's like that
and not  like this
at all









Next from my library, I have two short poems by my poet-friend Joanna M. Weston. The  poems are from her book,  A  Summer Father,  published in 2006 by Frontenac  House of Calgary, Alberta.

Joanna grew up on the North Downs of Kent, under one of the main bombing runs to London. She left England at age 18 and became a Canadian citizen in 1965, the same day the maple leaf flag was adopted. She writes poetry, short stories, children's books  and poetry reviews. She has published internationally in journals and anthologies and has to middle-readers in print, The Willow-Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes.

This book is a remembrance of and a tribute to her father, and, in a way, to all the million others killed with him in the Second World War.


A Book called  "Poems"
       
         They had no peace at their creation
         No  twilight hush of wings;

sixty-four pages
worn and creased
with split binding
that traveled
from my childhood
to this  present

his words lift
to thud in sunlit sand
and bloody shadows
as Father campaigns
to put gunfire and dead men
on paper


Embarkation

        Only a few officials holding watches
        Noted the stealthy hour of our departing,
        And, as we went, turned back to the hotel.

the train moves slowly
form the station

Father goes without goodbye
into the soldier's comradeship
of linked solitudes

pistons heave, wheels  draw them
down the track, out of dawn
to quayside and a somber song
that whispers and lifts
like smoke

war lies
ahead of the bow wave
beyond foam sliding past the ship's hull
beyond arcs of flying fish
out of sight
unimagined








It's kind of obvious, but the thought occurred to me so  I  though I'd write a poem about it.


the cutting room floor

memory like movies,
not linear, but scene by scene
passing

I remember
looking at a reflection
of myself in a store window
in Houston, January 10, 1966,
waiting for induction
and a bus ride
to basic training in San Antonio,
recognizing the image
in the window
as the last time would I see myself as a civilian
for some years to come…

I don’t remember
taking the oath or getting
on the bus or the several hours
on the bus, but I remember getting off
in San Antonio, lining up
with a scruffy collection of recently former civilians,
greeted, not gently,
by a North Carolina accented Drill Instructor

I remember him tall and thin, intense eyes
under the brim of a hat pulled
low and I remember my new name,
“big’un” he called me, and “big’un” I was
for the next nine weeks…

I remember a ragged march
to our barracks, but nothing else
that day; I remember standing in cold
January rain the next morning, very early,
for breakfast, but I don’t remember breakfast;
I remember standing in line
for haircuts, the shearing of our last civilian vanity,
but I don’t remember the actual cutting;
I remember standing in line to get uniforms,
fatigues in olive drab, khaki 1505s, and dress blues,
a wool overcoat fit for arctic weather, a fatigue coat
my son took to college, a raincoat I still wear
when it rains, a fatigue cap, a cunt cap, a dress hat
to wear with dress blues, but I don't remember
boots, I don't remember socks,
I don't remember shoes...

I remember marching,
everywhere marching, but I don’t remember
where we went; I remember
smoke breaks, “smoke’um if you got’um,”
crumpled cigarettes
pulled from crumpled packages
carried in our socks;
I remember guarding our passage, running ahead
at every street crossing, standing in the intersection
at parade-rest, one arm extended, open palm,
stopping oncoming traffic for our flight to pass (each group
of recruits called a “flight”); but
I don’t remember what crossing guards
like me were called, except that it was something
that sounded much more special than “crossing guard”

I remember running the obstacle course at the end of training,
severe shin splints making a difficult run,
but I remember none of it but the pain
and the Drill Instructor at the end of the course
giving me a thumbs up as I passed;
and I remember, as squad leader, marching my squad
to the parade field for our final graduation
pass before the base commander,
but I don’t
remember marching that final 100 yards
across the field…

I remember the meningitis scare after training,
quarantine,
sleeping January nights in the barracks
with all the windows open;
I remember making three friends during that isolation,
one now dead,
the other two long since lost to the maw of time passing…

out of nine weeks of living,
I remember maybe as much as half a day,
the rest lost to the cutting floor, like all the slow parts
of the run-of-the-mill movie
that has been my life so far, and, as the movie
flickers on to its final hour,
more of it ends on the floor, less and
less of it ever to be seen on the screen
of memory…

just another plain-vanilla “Flubber” of a movie passing,
lucky to ever gross
it’s cost







Next from the Tang anthology, here is poet Meng Hao-jan

Born in 689, Meng died in 740. He failed to pass the official examinations and retired to become a mountain recluse. He lost his one chance at a position in court when, after Wang Wei introduced him to the Emperor, he cause offence and was dismissed.


On Stopping at an Old Friend's Homestead

My old friend prepared a chicken with millet,
Inviting me to visit his country home,
Where the green of the trees
     girdles the village
And beyond the walls the blue hills begin.

We opened your windows to inspect the kitchen-garden,
Took some wine, and spoke of mulberries and flax.
Wait until  the Autumn Festival:
I shall  come again,
     to  enjoy your chrysanthemums.


Written in the Ch'in Country, for a Buddhist Priest, Master Yuan

To live on a mountain was  often my desire,
With three paths to my hut,
     but I lack the money.
I never chose to dwell on the northern plains;
I think with longing of my Master at East  Wood.
Spent is my yellow gold on costly fuel,
Waning my power of will as the years go.
At evening, when a cool wind  passes,
I hear the cicadas,
     and they make my sorrow more.








A book reject, 2005-2006 or so.


making movies at  Starbucks

girl
in a large hat
comes  in
out of the nova-watt sun,
sits
removes her hat,
buries her face in her hands
like she was weeping,
but I couldn't  tell, could be
she's just tired
rubbing sunspots
out of her eyes

a man joins her
also  from a halo of  light,
tall man,
very
tall
in cowboy boots
and gray hair
under a straw hat,
hanging long
down
the nape of his neck

they both look  like actors

she's
the young Hispanic girlfriend
of the somewhat older
star, a teacher probably,
from the books on the table,
English teacher
reading poetry to her class
through wire-rimmed glasses
when the hero walks in
with his boots and badge
to take her out to lunch
at the burger place down the road

she'll be dead
and he'll be out for revenge
by the end of the first reel

and the other guy with her,
too old for the lead,
he's probably the police chief
who tries to talk the hero
out of taking he law
into his own hands, or,
because off the boots and hat,
maybe the country sheriff,
some place like Del Rio County,
he'll either get killed
by the third reel
or turn out, in the end,
to be the one who killed the girl,
something to do with
drugs
or maybe a cache of
gold
from an 1890 train robbery
hidden in the caliche hills outside town,
probably near the river so the hero
can cross into Mexico
and get drunk on tequila
while the firecrackers are popping
and the sparklers are sparkling
and it's el dia de los muertos, the
day of the dead, and he learns the secret
of the gold from the whore
in the backroom
who turns out  to  be his girlfriend's  mother
and he gets the gold and takes her back
across the river and buys her a coffee shop
right by the school where
he and his girlfriend had lunch
every day before she was
killed...

I  don't know about this one guy,
the sheriff, maybe murdered, maybe
the killer, like that actor
who did Joe Buck in that movie
Midnight Cowboy with
some years on him...

could be,
no Ratso though,
not anywhere I can see,
a city guy for sure,
no place for Ratso  in Del Rio










Next, I have poems from Alex Stolis, another poet-friend.  The  poems are from his  chapbook, Li Po Comes to America, published by Parallel  Press in 2010.

One of the  things I like best about Alex's work, in addition, of course, to the quality of his writing, is the way he can come up  with a "hook" to hang a poem on,  then, not satisfied with just one poem, writes  a whole book around  it

As in this book...

(I also like every one of his chapbooks turns into a novel in miniature.)


Third Law of Thermodynamics

XI. A cocktail waitress with Gene  Tierney lips

tells me it's closing time, she talks about Kerouac,
hands me her  last cigarette. i want  to  call her a saint,
want her to  take me home.

Instead, I get drunk. Pretend I don't care about details,
pretend I don't care about the duty of friends
or the way her eyes stab the light.


                                                         As temperature approaches absolute
                                                         zero, the entropy of a system
                                                         approaches a constant


XII. Getting Stoned at Moby Dick's

reaching for the sleeve
of your coat,  I'm  eager

to be reassembled. I count
on your need to forget.

Watch,  as this dream
slides down  my face -

cups its hand close
to the back  of my neck.


Pythagorean Theorem

XIII. Fargo Rock City

You believe the last  colors to bleed
through the sky will be lone reds
and jealous  blues

Watching two cigarettes lit from one flame
I  touch the crucifix around your neck -
try to steal your voice when you  pray.


                                   The sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides
                                   of a right triangle is equal to the square of the
                                   length of the hypotenuse


XIV. No time  flat

You want to know how  spring got lost
in a crowded bar,

what do do  when clouds fall
from  grace.You watch me -

I grab the wind, turn my pockets
inside out to catch the rain.










A morning vision.


two women

they walk in together
in the morning,
two women,
the older one dressed
head to toe in silks
that cover her except
for her hands and a narrow
slit for her eyes

she is
the other’s mother,
my assumption
based on what I can see
of an age difference -
the other, younger, in jeans
and starched shirt, a slim
dark-eyed beauty, skin soft and smooth,
light brown like cocoa powder,
so beautiful you cannot not
see her, such natural
beauty
it is hard not to stare,
such vibrant beauty
that, as I try to write my morning poem,
it is hard to keep my mind
on task, my eyes
and my thoughts drawn back
to her again and again,
the poem an interruption
that falls aside

```

there is no end to this poem
except that she left
with her mother
before me
and my eyes burn
like blown with desert
sand









Next from  the anthology I have, Tu Fu, the third of the immortals. Born in 712, the poet died in 770.

Mostly unsuccessful at the official examinations, he was awarded several minor posts through the intercession of influential friends. A captive for a while of rebels, he eventually escaped and rejoined his emperor in another minor  position,  which did not last long due to the disgrace of his sponsor. He spent the last years of his life as a wanderer, settling for a while in a place, then moving on. He died while  traveling alone  on a boat on a journey back to  the Capital.


Climbing a Height

A sharp wind,
     the sky high,
     gibbons mournful screeching;
Blue islets,
     white sands,
     sea-birds wheeling.
Without cease
     falling leaves
     drift down with a whisper;
Without end
     the Long River
     washes endlessly by.

Miles from home,
     mourning the autumn,
     always a wanderer,
An old man,
     often sick,
     I have climbed this height alone.
My hardships
     and bitter regrets
     have added  frost to my temples:
In my unhappiness
     I push aside
     the cup of rough wine.


Spending the Night at the General's Headquarters

Clear autumn at Headquarters
     the wu-t'ung trembles by the well.
I am lodged alone in this river city;
     my candle gutters and fades.
All night long the bugle's tones
     speak their own sadness;
The moon's orb  hangs in the sky -
     who has the heart to watch it?

Driven on by the winds and dust
     I lost touch with home.
In this desolate frontier country
     even the roads are hazardous.
I have endured my loneliness
     for ten years now:
Chased from the nest I snatch a moment's peace
     on this solitary bough.
    









Here's a piece from 2005.


at this time of the year

i
harvest moon

orange

with a little nick
on one side

a scrape
on the side
as the season
just here
begins to pass again

a break on the oval
so that if
you could turn
it on its side
it would hold steady
and not roll away

a large orange
table ornament
sitting bright
like a pumpkin
pulled from its field

needing only
triangle eyes
and jagged teeth
to mark the season

look to the sky
this month

watch the bright moon
as it darkens, leaves
and comes again

silver-white this time
in the icy grip
of winter


ii
leaves turn red

wither
to brown cinder

sap sinks
to roots below

gathers green
for life's renewal

not death
but deep  in sleep

waiting


iii
chill bites
morning slumber

awake
now

to new day

new skies
cloudless blue
in clear, bright shiver


iv
blue  sky
reflected in puddles
on fresh-washed
sidewalks

summer's
dry heat broken
by cool north
breezes

sun after rain

like a smile
on the day


v
blue
such blue

a sky to be lost in

deep
like a well
glistening with cool water

yet near
touchable almost
like the beautiful girl
in a boy's midnight dream

and clear

no clouds
nothing between me
and he bright welcome
of heaven's gates
but clean, open sky

and blue
such blue












For my last library poems this week,  I have two pieces by Susan Holahan from her book, Sister Betty Reads the Whole You. The book was published in 1998 by Gibbs-Smith Publisher.


Holahan was born in Rochester, New York. She received her Ph.D. in English and her law degree from Yale University. Her collection of poems, Sister Betty Reads the Whole You, was winner of the 1997 Peregrine Smith Poetry Competition. Her poetry has appeared in Agni, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Women's Review of Books, and Seneca Review, where she is contributing editor. She also writes fiction and practices law in Connecticut. She taught writing at Yale and the University of Rochester and has worked as an editor at Newsday and the Yale University Press.


How Light, for Example

makes our living,light makes our
life  where we live, makes
howI live - like lead
in New Haven, damp on Long Island,
empty I thought in Dallas.
But here in Rochester
the usual platinum light
makes another life altogether,
which is yours, or you.

Here's where you get the speaking
part you've angled for. That day
clouds hid our eclipse till after lunch
we couldn't help  it. We crept out
to  not-look at the sun  while
it  was leaving us
a mere annulus.The tulips stilled.
You said the light felt thin
and I  thought, lavender?

violet? with gray like before
a summer  storm - diluted, rubbed.
Last night that dream again
tore me;  both of us in a warehouse
separate in crowds of strangers,
me struggling to write to you
and I admit  I didn't  own boots.
Let  me tell you
everything  looked dark.


The Park at Texas Falls

on both sides of the dirt road, water
roils among boulders the way words run in you head all night

steep into forest under ochre haze  that lies on clearings
you're inclined to say "beauty" roars

a darkness under old trees
you at a loss      the falling -

passages of  sculpted rock so strait the water
squeezes through to mingle bottle-green and white

- fills  your skull as though you'd left the porch light on
past 3 a.m. a nimbus filled the hall

there's "memory" and there's seeing it again
like finding late in history the very book your learned to read in












Adventures in the timber trade, from last week.



the fall

my former
mesquite tree
is now a pile of limbs
and brush in my back yard,
waiting for me to complete its
final journey to the front yard
before the city brush pick up comes
around in two weeks…

four feet across
at its base, forty feet high
at its peak - but, in between
the base and the crown, about eight feet
or horizontal growth that has pushed
my neighbor’s fence near horizontal
as well

and she prefers her fences
vertical…

thus
the very large pile of limbs
and brush in my back yard
that needs to be carried to my front
curb - a bit more of a job than I should
probably undertake at my age

(the four-foot wide trunk pieces
are very large and very heavy
and two of the heaviest are wedged
between the fence and the tool shed
and I am attempting
to relearn fifth grade lessons
of levers and fulcrums and the miraculous
usages thereof, except that I’m at least
two levers short of a fulcrum
and no miracles
are happening, except for the miraculous
appearance of blood and scratches
on my back and chest and legs and arms,
but, so far, not the heart attack
my wife is expecting…)

but I saved $100 by not having
the tree-cutters move the cuttings
and I’m old and cheap and getting
cheaper as I get older and getting also
more likely to mythologize the strength and
hard-workishness of my former, younger, no-
longer available youth, oh, youth, that
happy sprite that promises
so much and delivers so little
when it’s needed and past its
prime…

not like the tree, about my age,
a little older than me,
but, unlike me, not past,
it’s better years, all those
seventy-five or eighty years
that led to its better years
now just a pile
of frustrated arboreal dreams
in my backyard

~~~~~

my neighbor’s front-yard oak,
a good 300 to 400 years
old,
watched it all, I’m sure,
in horror,
as it’s adolescent companion
fell…









For my last selections from the anthology, I have short pieces by three poets.


The first poet is Wei Chuang, a poet of the early 10th century. Serving in important posts under high officials, he was know for his easy-going, carefree  nature. While living in Szechuan, he searched for the immortal Tu Fu's original "thatched hut" and had it repaired.


Impression of Chin-Ling

The Six Dynasties are gone like a dream
               leaving birds vainly crying;
Rain falls drizzling on the river
              and on the level seddges,
Most heartless are the willows
              by Chin-Ling palace walls -
A green veil s of old
               along the three-mile dyke.


The second poet is Ch'en T'ao, from the late 9th and early 10th century. After repeatedly failing the civil service examinations, he retired to the West mountain in Hung-chou, where he spent his life as a recluse. In addition to  his poetry, he studied and was interested in combining the principles of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism and experimented with alchemy. In his old age, he took to wandering around the country on foot and it is not certain where or when he died.


Song of  Lung-Hsi

They vowed to crush the Hsiung-nu,
               holding their lives light:
Five thousand in sable battle-dress
               died in the foreign dust.
How pitiful that the bones lying
               by Wu-ting riverside
Are still the lovers of
               many a woman's dream!


The last poet from the anthology this week is Chang Pi. Not much is know of the poet's life except that he lived in the 10th century and appears to have served as Chief of Police to the Magistrate of Chu-yung, and to have been promoted to the post of secretary to the Grand Secretariat.


For Someone

Parted, but my dream still  lingers
     at the House of Hsieh,
On a little porch
     bordered with zig-zag railings.
Only the spring moon on that courtyard
     is full of passion,
Still  shining on the fallen petals
     when I am gone.















I finish this week with a final poem from the ancient good old days (that being 2006 for our purposes here).


can't we all just get along?

rain
last night
lightning and thunder
that scared  the dogs
right into bed with me,
shivering  with each flash and crash,
then the close ones, exploding
no more than a block over,
and cat, haughty cat who never flinched 
before any power, relying on feline presence
to ward off even the worst interference
from man, dog, or other beast
- that very cat
joined us on the bed,
found a nest, a haven, between us,
Reba on one side and Peanut on the other,
all three so frightened they each accepted
the presence of the other without the usual
hiss and growl until the storm passes
and the rain no longer blew like pea gravel
against the window, and the lightning stopped
and the thunder faded to the north hills
and we were back to a quiet summer night
and the animals, all at the same time, realized
where they were and who was with them
and they scattered each in her own way,
Reba, the gentle shepherd, slipped over the side
of the bed,  while little Peanut leaped away
using my stomach like a trampoline, and cat,
remembering her dignity, slipped across my face
and to the floor, "we will not speak of this again,"
she might have said had she deigned to speak

and it was 2 a.m. and I finally got to sleep, alone
with my human
dreams







We're done for the week.

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