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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 ...

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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Tweet for the Star Magnolia

Today marks the peak Of the star magnolia’s bloom Like the goddess Aphrodite With a full head of curls Every petal holds in place Oblivious to earth’s call Though sure to succumb
Soon in their inevitable fall