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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Under the Light of the Eleventh Moon

Settling in the chill creekbed
Tonight under a soft blanket
Of December moonlight

There's a level of tranquility
Along the shoreline
I've never felt before

The waters have withdrawn
Far distant from the shore
And the tide gone so slack
It may never snap back again
From stillness of such depth

Friday, December 25, 2020

Things the Lawn Whispered to Me

Up until now I had only

Been dimly aware of the lawn's 

Interest in communicating with me

As sporadically displayed by

The mysterious calligraphy

The moles scratched out

As they dug their summer burrows

But now it appears the lawn

Has opened a second seasonal

Channel which consists of these

Barn hex or crop circle patterns 

That have recently begun

Popping up in the snow and

To be absolutely honest about it

I have no idea what they 

Could possibly mean

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Winter Scene (II) -- in reply to A R Ammons

The other day
In the heart of Queens
I came across
The strangest scene

Midway down the block
A cherry tree stood
In full bloom

Around it buzzed
A dozen wasps
Resurrected from
Their winter slumber

A chill wind blew
The petals fluttered
Spring thus come in winter
Being both ill omen
And strange wonder


This morning I read an A.R. Ammons called Winter Scene that had been posted to Twitter. "There is now not a single/leaf on the cherry tree" - as the poem begins. (You can read the full Ammons' poem here: https://allpoetry.com/poem/14370666-Winter-Scene-by-A.R.-Ammons.)

It immediately brought to mind this strange sight I came across last weekend when I went into the City to visit my kids. I have no idea how such a thing happens. One more sign of our planetary crisis or maybe just a tree recently transplanted from a greenhouse where it had been force-fed some Monsanto growth compound. As Paul Simon wrote, these are the days of miracle and wonder, except now there is a decided presentiment of time being broken and perhaps beyond repair.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Poem Written in Twilight on December 18, 2020 as I Stepped Outside the Front Door

I swear on the entire stack of poems

I shall ever write

Tonight while walking my dog

I beheld a most miraculous sight

Some might say the Star of Bethlehem

But no less spectacular I say

The near conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
A once in 200 year celestial event
Just outside my front door

Soon to converge again

As Galileo first saw


This poem was composed as a Tweet as I walked my dog this evening, swept away by the sense of serendipity to behold such a sight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Poem Written While Standing at the Base of a Right Triangle Composed of Me, the Half Moon and the Setting Sun

We walked along the beach
Under a canopy of marbling clouds
The half moon 
Lay starboard side
I found myself nestled
In the base of a right triangle
Pinioned between the half moon
And the setting sun
Leaving no room for doubt
That daylight was nearly done 

Photo by M. Bridge

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Ode to the Language Poet (for @ronsilliman )


The language poet 
Is insouciant
Tossing the literal
Aside in favor of the nut
Within the nut
Within the shell
And really what 
Did he find other than
The wheel turning to land
On Kora's season in Hell?

Oh but pity the poor language poet
The empty shell in which
He seeks to make himself
Feel more at home
More like a hermit crab
Than a lordly pair 
Of lobster claws
Scuttling along
The ocean floor 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Tweet for @kellyjeanrebar

 There's no weakness

In the branch hanging low

Just the plant's native

 Intelligence of using

Gravity to grow

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Broken Tape Dispenser

Here's a bit of random entertainment
for those of you living 
on the razor's edge of despair
or outrage over our inherent
right of repair 

Just now I closed the kitchen drawer
and heard the scotch tape dispenser snap into pieces -- 
picking up the larger shard I tried 

To tear off a piece of tape dangling there 
and mused to myself perhaps 
I should try to tape the tape dispenser back together -- 
How meta is that 
My inner daemon replied 

And finally on the third try I managed
but by then the tape dispenser was empty 
proving that obsolescence comes 
for us moderns in many shapes and sizes

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Across the Visible Spectrum

This afternoon in the woods
I paused by the side of the lake
And almost lost myself the way
Narcissus did deep in the reflection
Not of myself but in the shimmering
Beauty of nature which trembled
With a breeze's gentle touch
Making the afternoon reverberate
Across the visible spectrum of light

Photo by

Friday, October 23, 2020

Drinking Alone in the Moonlight (by Li Bai)

 Here's my translation of one of Li Bai's most famous poems.  This is an old translation that I'm only posting now in order to share with a new acquaintance on Twitter.  But it's such a pleasure to reread Li Bai's wonderful poem ... I'm already looking forward to a jug of wine later tonight.

In blossom time
With a jug of wine
Drinking alone
Without a friend

I raise my glass 
And invite the moon
To share the bottle
With me and my shadow

What a party we make
The moon looks down
In sober disdain
While my idiot shadow
Follows my every move

Friends for the night
We come together in pleasure
To make the most
Of this glorious weather

But while I sing and dance
Shadow wobbles unsteadily
And moon remains aloof
Far overhead

If only I could sober up
Before the party ends
Maybe we'd all end up
The best of friends

Yet before stumbling apart
Let me propose a solemn oath
That we three reunite soon
In the distant Milky Way

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Meditating in Moonlight (by Han Shan)

I first took note of this Han Shan poem thanks to a Twitter posting by @EstherHawdon.  What caught my eye was the first stanza, which struck me as unusual for Tang poetry, going beyond the typical Yin-Yang cosmology as a way of describing the workings of celestial light.  But as @EstherHawdon pointed out to me, the Chinese astronomer Zhang Heng (AD 78-139) had been a very early propounder of the theory that the moon borrows its light from the sun.

In any case, notable as the first stanza is, I find the second stanza even more remarkable -- Han Shan's own unique observations about indirect illumination - how the sun lights the moon and the moon itself provides illumination for the poet's own soul.

Meditating in front
Of a rocky cliff under the
Glow of the full moon
It's brilliant as day time
Everything casts a shadow
But without inherent light

The spirit is a vast void
Naturally clear
Emptiness contained
Such as in the depths
Of a mysterious cave
The same cause that makes
The moon visible makes
The moon a pivot on which
The heart's yearning turns

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Hearing the Midnight Bell (JiaoRan)

 An ancient temple
Atop Cold Mountain
A distant bell
Borne by a fair breeze
The toll lingers
The moon drifts through the trees
Until the last echo expires
A fine rime of frost
Descends from the sky
It's nighttime forever
Meditating at first watch
Deep amid this frame of mind

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Autumn Comes Anew, a poem sent to Magistrate Lu


The ancients studied the past
Hoping to gain perspective
And moderate their passions
To sit beside smoke and fire
Controlling their breath
So my good friend as you look
Upon the clear autumn scene
Up to the empty sky's origin
Where mountains loom as guests
Make no complaint at all and
 Still the sound of string and bow
Only behold the sunset and
The cicadas' rising call 
In the blue green clouds of twilight
Yearning to be reborn

Friday, September 18, 2020

Meditation Poem (by JiaoRan)

Written in the 8th century by the poet and Buddhist monk JiaoRan, this poem has a very contemporary ring to it.  Or maybe it's just that the essence of Buddhist practice hasn't changed too much over the 1300 intervening years.  It's all about standing (or sitting) alone under heaven and earth, studying without movement ...

Ten thousand dharmas
Stream forth from no-gate
One after another until
Wisdom grows faint
Disciples weigh the choices
Open to the novitiate
But standing alone under
Heaven and earth
Is the starting place

Practice is about what exists
Things from the outset
That in stillness persist
The key is to study
Without movement and
Behold the light shining forth
On the origin of all
Ten thousand things 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Speaking About Chan (by Bai JuYi)

Here is a poem by Bai JuYi that I translated today. This will likely be one of the poems that will be included in The Poetry of Awakening, an anthology of Chinese poems about the search for enlightenment that I am preparing for publication later this year. 

Full of paradox and word play, this poem is something of a departure from Bai JuYi's usual plainspoken style.  It was written late in life, as Bai JuYi immersed himself more deeply in the study of Chan Buddhism.  When it comes to enlightenment, being plainspoken will only get you so far.

Speaking About Meditation


What you must know is

Nothing is as it seems

What appears lacking  

Overflows in abundance


Words soon forgotten

Words clearly understood

In a dream to speak of dreaming

Is profound and void of meaning


How does emptiness blossom

To provide a double blessing

How does a searing flame

Transform into a fish


Disturbance comes amidst

Meditation’s stillness

Meditation is movement

Not meditating

Not moving

Such as it is



须知诸相皆非相  若住无余却有余

 言下忘言一时了  梦中说梦两重虚 

 空花岂得兼求果  阳焰如何更觅鱼

摄动是禅禅是动  不禅不动即如如

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Paroxysm of Green Delight

 In front of the Weesuck

Long in the tooth clinic

There's this hearty patch

Of milkweed thriving

In a sunny spot from which

My wife brought home a sprig

The other day so pretty

On our windowsill and

There to our surprise

We noticed three small caterpillars

Affixed to the velvety

Underside of the leaf

And the next thing I know

She spoke to our neighborhood

Shaman who advised us to put

It in a large mason jar

Cover it with gauze

Affixed with a rubber band

And wait for a week or two

To behold the holy liquefaction

And paroxysm of green delight

From which a Monarch is born

You don't really know

Why the basil failed to thrive

This year while the milk weed

Has thus transformed

But at least we have all winter 

To try and figure it out

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Summer on the Brink

Whether you’re one of 

Those ultra-fit  gentlemen 

Who are more like the hydrangea

Or day lily preferring to stay

In the background blooming

All summer long

Not the greatest blossom

Not the least


Or more like the hibiscus

You own two weeks

At the height of summer

In their entirety

Throwing all your glory

At the sun without

Rival in your peak


Or like the snow ball

Pointing longingly

Westward at sunset

So well intentioned

Summer brings us all

In various ways

Right to the brink

Photo by Carrie Welch

Monday, July 13, 2020

Magpie Bridge

There's a beautiful and mind-bending article in Sunday's New York Times about galactic walls.  Vast as the Milky Way is and hard as it is for us to comprehend space in such magnitude, it is really just a small bounded enclosure; and like a garden fence, it obscures us from the view of much vaster domains beyond.  If we could only peak over or around the Milky Way, we would glimpse all these other galaxies strung out like jewels on an endless necklace.  Here's a link to the article in case you haven't read it yet.

The article reminded me of the Chinese legend of the Cowherd and Weaver, which is basically the Chinese version of Pyramus and Thisbe set against the backdrop of the Milky Way.  When the Chinese looked skyward on a summer evening, they saw Vega and Altair positioned on either side of the great Milky Way as the celestial embodiment of these star-crossed lovers.  Magpie Bridge is how they described the band of darkness that spans the celestial river of light flowing between them.  Much as I admire the explanatory powers of modern astronomy, I find the ancient legend equally compelling in providing a way to comprehend the boundlessness of the summer sky at night.

As companion to the NY Times' article, here's my translation of Magpie Bridge, by the Song poet Qin Guan:

Magpie Bridge of the Immortals

A filigree of cloud drifts by chance
A star sends its regrets as it shoots across
The luminous flow of the Milky Way
In the vast skies of autumn
Cowherd and Weaver meet
For their brief rendezvous
Equal to ten thousand trysts
In the earthly domain below
Supple and yielding as water
The fleeting ecstasy of a dream
To stand and mutely gaze across
The span of Magpie Bridge
The route of eternal return
When two hearts unite forever
A day or night together is of no concern




Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Dream of Death

Death comes to me in the guise

Of an old friend who long ago

Traveled beyond but now

Has returned seeking

A means of ingress

It's his apartment really

That we have barricaded

Ourselves inside

Plushly furnished yet

Fearfully we hide

By the service entrance

By what right I wonder

Having renounced

Our friendship besides

Such intimacy we can't abide

So it is we have drawn  

These false boundary lines 

Hoping to segregate

Those of us still clinging to life

From all those who have died

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

First Bird of Morning

As if back from the dead
The first bird of morning
Sings its song sweetly
One voice to carry us all
Though long before dawn
And yet night has been
Banished completely

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Oh Yes ( in reply to Robert Creeley)

If you sit long enough
You will come to it
And when you get there
They will give you a place to sit
Except you'll be sitting already
And what you'll really want
Is to unbend your knees
And rise up in song
And then you may see no difference
Between arrival and moving along

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Precondition of Life

A crack in the roadway
Through which a dream
Seeps into broad daylight
Imagination is nothing

More or less than
A precondition of life

Photo by Marissa Bridge

Poem for Heraclitus

No you never do step
Into the same river twice
But then again you never
Step out of it either
As we remain unsure
Where the shoreline lies
What's real and what's dream
Stasis and change being  
But two ways to describe
How we find ourselves amidst 
The same ever swirling stream
While Charon stands ready with
His ferry awaiting the moment
We become submerged

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Grass (by Bai Juyi)

Far far across the plain
Spreads the grass
One year and another
It withers and returns
Never extinguished
By the prairie fires
With spring winds
It leaps back to life
Bringing near a fragrance
From an age-old path
So the green sward overgrows
Crumbling city walls and
Once again my friend
We must part with
Feelings boundless as grass
Overtaking my heart


Saturday, April 11, 2020

What it Means to Die in Early Spring

for Phil

It's early spring 
That brings us
This 2020 vision
Before the leaves unfurl
And the birds alone
Stand proud on the branch
That's when you passed

The marsh grass
Lay wan along the shoreline
Where we had tramped 
Together before
Last year's blades
Now sere and flattened
Reduced to stubble
Yet full of secret purpose
To blanket the tender
New shoots of grass

The north wind 
A choir at my back
Strong in its resolve
Sang of your passing
  Its voice lifted me up
Buoyant like your spirit
And carried me on

That's what it means
To die in early spring
Your last breathe trembles
With renewal's touch
Your complexion ashen
Yet clearly kindled 
With a Lenten blush

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Blood of a Poet

A dream may be just as well wrought as a poem, I suppose, though it's directed to an audience of one.  Just like a good poem, a central metaphor lies at the heart of a well-constructed dream; although it eludes being fully grasped by our rational minds, meaning radiates out from that central metaphor to illuminate all, like the rays of a setting sun.

Let me give you an example of what I mean from one of my own recent dreams.  Since I write much less poetry nowadays, most of my creative energy has been diverted into my dream life, which of late, has achieved an exceedingly fine texture.  REM sleep brings me close to rapture.  I’m no Charles Simic, otherwise I’d be trying to render these dreams as poems.  But for me, dream and poem are autonomous realms, not overlapping.  I am much more of a Freudian inasmuch as it’s far easier for me to reenter the dream realm through prose. So here goes ...

A few nights ago, I dreamed about riding down the highway on a bus at night. Two slender volumes of poetry lay in my lap, my only source of diversion during the long dull ride.  The author was the friend of a friend, someone known to me only distantly, and I felt indifferent to reading her poems, preferring instead to rest my head against the window, my mind wandering as I watched the oncoming headlights stream by.

Then I roused myself from reverie.  I picked up one of the books, opened it to a random page and began reading. I was struck by the sudden intense sense that I held a living thing in my hands. I could feel a pulse beating through the book’s cover and down the spine.  And then I felt the warm blood of the poet, seeping from the book, beginning to puddle in my hands.  At first, the sensation was mild and pleasing but soon gave way to a rising sense of panic, as the blood flow rapidly increased, pouring through my hands and cascading onto the floor. The poet, I realized, was bleeding out.  Frantically I began to search through the book, hoping to find the source of the wound.  On the last page I found a deep vein cut from which her blood streamed forth but there was nothing, nothing I could do, no tourniquet near to hand, and the life simply drained out of her as she passed through my hands.     

I woke up filled with distress, wrote a short note to myself, and then rolled over to go back to sleep, hoping to start dreaming afresh.  If books could bleed, as I wrote in my notebook, we would likely read that much less, but still our true life force would be that much more capable of expression.  

Jean Cocteau, The Blood of a Poet