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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 ...

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Single Spring (by Han Shan)

Today I translated this poem by Han Shan, the hermit-poet of Cold Mountain.  It's the last line of this poem that takes my breath away.  How many years lie within a single spring?  This for me captures the essence of early spring - a time filled by infinite possibility -- when all of life is crammed into a handful of days as the worms first begin turning the soil.

My home is spare
And well hidden
Dwelling far from
The earth's clamor
I tread on the grass
To make three paths
And gaze upon the clouds
Who are my nearest neighbors

The birds join me in song
There's no else to discuss
Any matters of Dharma
Each day bears the fruit
Of Karma's great tree
How many years I wonder 
Lie within a single spring 


Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Dream Machine

It comes without instructions
Nor are any needed really
The design is intuitive
You just plug it in 
And close your eyes
Tightly or ever so slightly
It matters not a bit

The pillow rises and falls
As if breathing on its own
Part of a larger apparatus 
Which delivers dreams
Directly to your head

All of which are recorded
On a flash memory card
Retrievable periodically
Subject to overwriting and error
In accordance with an algorithm
First inscribed in the Book of the Dead



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Spring Scene (by Du Fu)

This Du Fu poem (written in the mid 8th century) captures the mood of the moment for me -- the return of spring in a world that has not yet emerged from a period of disruption and ruin.  Why write poetry at a time of seeming social collapse?  Is it a sympathetic fallacy to suppose that a millennium or so hence someone may understand that much better how they are feeling?  

Spring Scene

The country lies broken though
Mountains and rivers remain
As spring returns to the city
Grasses and trees regain
The depth of green

But in the mood 
Of these days
Dew sprinkles the flowers
Like tears on the cheek
And the heart knows only regret
Watching the sparrow take flight

For three months 
The beacon fires have flared
Making a letter from home
More precious than gold

And my white hair grown
Thin from constant scratching
Won't even hold a pin