Publish the Word
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The Lord gave the Word and great was the company of those that published it. 
Psalm 68:11

Catherine Greenwood

 

THE STILLBIRTH

 

Dreaming a different life

my father moved us in the dead of winter

to an abandoned ranch he’d found

in the mountains. The summer before

he’d wallked the welcoming land, conceived

a plan with almanacs and advice that flowed

free with the homemade wine of his neighbours,

bemused ranchers who wondered why a city man

would forfeit his salaried ease. He sat

with them on their evening porches, seeing

the gentle yellow order of the freshly swathed

fields, hearing the random

bleating of calves echo through the hills.

 

His children would flourish like the wild

alpine flowers that grew there

in spring. In summer he’d teach us

the names of  grasses – timothy, clover, oats, wheat.

In winter we’d become strong

hauling hay and water, mucking stalls

in the old wooden barn.

 

That long January, as the eldest

I helped my father

feed the four Herefords. Our starter herd.

One morning in the early darkness

he found one of them had calved

too soon. He called me to the paddock

where the small body gleamed,

its upper side already leavening.

A smell like yeast rose from the salty

amniotic puddle it lay in.

 

It was perfect. Grotesque, hairless

except for white fringes on the shut

eyes, mouth and nostrils closed, hooves

still rubbery. Nearby the cow stood quietly

chewing the grain my father gave her, and

as he held her bucket he explained to me

gestation and its failures.

 

When he dropped me at the schoolbus

that morning my mouth was full of new words,

my ten year old’s tongue morbidly savouring

the taste of things gone

wrong. I silently repeated their

magic – stillborn, aborted, premature—

as if they could convey the seamless

unfinished body and blue umbilicus

leaking into the frozen ground, the calf

first born of my father’s dream.

 

 

PEARL FARMER’S WIFE

 

In the hours of night remaining

he quietly slides the screen

shut against the moonlit beds

and crawls into ours already spent.

 

A miracle, that we’ve conceived

between us five children.

When he touches me his hands

smell of salt, of honeyed bait,

 

still damp with the work of sowing

flesh. I accuse him of being

in love with an oyster,

making my resentment a jest,

 

a small seed spit out

so it won’t  grow in me.

 

ELDEST DAUGHTER

 

Father always insisted I’d been there

the day he and Mother

rowed to the island and found

the first half-pearls. A day of imperfect joy,

the sun’s warmth slashed with gusts of wind,

our beach picnic of rice balls

garnished with dustings of sand.

Was that the time he showed me

how to open shells? The blade tip

slipped and gashed his hand,

half-filling his cupped palm

with blood. When he dipped his fist

from the dock to cleanse it,

salt water thinned the red cloud

and fresh transfusions of colour

swirled above the anemones,

the way a brush releases paint

into the bowl. I thought the aftertint

leaking from my father’s viens

would stain the whole ocean. His expression

of strained calm while he watched

my mother wrap her sash around

the wound must have been shock. I don’t think

I understood my father could feel pain.

 

SUCCESS

 

I want to find my way back

to that well in Kyoto, the night

I wandered blindly from the hospital into air

almost sweet from the faint unbearable

fragrance of spring, grass crunching

with frost as I turned somewhere

from the street into a temple yard.

I gripped the edge of that bottomless

shaft and listened to my osbes echo

from its cold stone walls.

 

I wanted to call your soul home

before it sank too far

into another realm, to throw

your name like a hook into your wake

as if I could bellow you back.

I wanted to hurl my grief

like a bomb into that hole and atomize

the emptimess. Behind my blurred reflection

gimaced a thin-lipped moon

and when I bent to yell, my tears

fell uselss on the water.

Its surface retuned my powerless wail.

 

I want to go back, find that still

quivering water and drop this pearl

into the dark epicentre of your absence,

as if it could halt the concentric

spread of loss, make time contract,

ripple inward, reverse. This pearl

I have summoned into being

at last, the long-sought goal

that fails to set the world right again,

mute triumph of a man who’s devoted

his life to mastering a language

no one he loves understands.

 

Wife, I pray you’re listening now.

 

 

GALLSTONES

 

You have grown old along with me, faithful diving girls.

            Keiko, Nobuko, bring me my globe,

            I want to take, before I leave it,

            one more spin around the world.

Do you think Ume is waiting? Will she laugh at my gray hair?

            Her true face evades me and my memories,

            like the places where I’ve travelled,

            now seem far away, images embossed on tiin.

 

No rice tonight. My famous appetite deserts me,

            my strength and my bodily functions

            abandon the anicent junk I have become.

This morning I warned my lieutentants to tie down the rafts

            for the coming typhoon

but my forecasts these days fall on deaf ears.

            No one wants to hear

            what an old man has to say.

 

No doctors. No fortuneteller need tell me

            what this illness portends.

Slick fingers dig around in my guts.

Some creature has come to harves nearly a century’s worth

            of salt and bile, has stuck

            its blade beneath my ribs

where it twists as if to pry my stubborn bones apart

            and pluck out a life’s

            accreted irritants and pleasures.

            Time’s hard stones.

 

Polish these pitiless gmes when I go, exhibit them

            in my pearl museum with the treasure

            hoarded from old empires.

No morphine now, I want to know when my sould is shucked

            free, I want to see

            if the streets of paradise are paved with jewels.

            Like little mock palaces,

my own pearls in the end were mere imitations of heaven’s.

            My life was spent trying to produce beauty.

            No one enters without offering something,

            even a king needs a ransom.

 

Here, in this silk pocket are the pearls I’ve chosen

            to pay my way into heaven.

Fill my nostrils, the sockets of my eyes, place the last

pearl like a pill upon my tongue.

            Thank you. For everything,

            I am grateful, I am grateful.

 

 

Steve Noyes

 

MIDWINTER BY THE DRYER-VENT

 

I am sad to watch my neighbour,

So sad my copula sustains a Mitteleuropa weariness,

As he plods behind the bright red snow-blower

To and from the garbage cans

From and to the bungalow;

And I see his grim persistence,

Corvée load of the northern cathedrals,

Is being paid with interest to someone long ago

Who didn’t love him—

His hands are cold, his face is cold—

Because he didn’t please them—

He is slow because he carves imperative perfection

And he has no balaclava.

Suburban Mitteleuropa no balaclava person!

Love is the problem and the question;

For everything else there is credit card and pension.

Love tells us pretty much what to do—

His face protrudes; in the snowbank a concavity—

Until it no longer cares to tell us what to do,

A twilight of scarab-sheen dimension,

The rolling door descends, machine she put away,

And, later, a light in the kitchen.

 

BODHISATVA

 

I go to such a Zen place with Tim,

former All-World centre for San Antonio.

He sets his basketball trophies on the lawn

in his  bare feet, grinning,

and topples them with the hose--

the golden frozen posing athletes--

and  hummingbirds from up the canyon

dart among droplets with Tim.

He laughs and laughs.

I say, "You wait so long in the post

before you launch your bank shot."

“I didn't shoot the ball," Tim says,

"It just looked that way."

He holds court with his charity people,

a latter-day United Nations

Tim prefers the quarterly reports,

but he is laid-back about it.

With his dreamy eyes and wide jaw,

Tim would have made a good Amish.

He laughs and laughs and laughs.

 

We go for our evening stroll.  "The 40-foot

replay images of us on scoreboards,"

Tim says quietly.  "The posters, the close-ups,

the profiles, the slow-mo isolation.

I knew we were being translated

to another realm, but where?"

We listen to the slowly rolling breakers.

He laughs.  Tim laughs and laughs.

The sea, the sky, the rocks, all the same mauve.

Breakers darkening the sands of Topanga.

“I no longer fear it," Tim says.

We are still until invisible.

 

 

ON FIRST LOOKING INTO ALLAN IVERSON

 

I used to drive by the junkyards and the gold

River in my superturbo Answering Machine,

And turn the heat way up, coz it was cold,

Watching the factory smoke rise still and clean,

And I never had no doubt I’d get old,

One in a million, superstar, and cruising

Past the Projects, remembered I’d been told

I’d end up dribbling circles round them, and losing

Anyway.  But I got the bling.  I looked in my mirror

And I will never forget—saw this skinny wigger

Wearing my line of kicks, yo, I got out

Signed his kicks and told him, memories, bury them

Anywhere you can.  Your rearview getting clearer.

Coz time runs out.  Coz there ain’t no doubt. 

Coz his name was Darien.

 

A POEM FOR RAMADAN

 

After cups of cardamom-laced coffee,

and mejdool dates, we said farewell,

for ‘Id had bled into the evening.

Amal, and her friend Amal,

led me down the spiral staircase.

Amal said suddenly, “My aunt lost

her child in a distant city.  Wallah,

I cannot imagine a greater pain, to never know

what became of him, not ten years old.”

Her friend Amal’s eyes teared unbidden;

she whispered, “Wa waladin wa ma walada,”

(By the mystic ties between parent and child);

Amal nodded and rejoined,

“Laqad khalaqna al-insan fi kabadin,”

(Verily we created man into a condition).

Which was pain, we knew together,

spreading in that woman’s search--

cities and faces and interminable streets

in a hell of a big world.  Amal and Amal

held hands, ribosomes in plain white robes

on a spiral staircase, bearing sorrow’s code,

and two names meaning hope.

 

 

ANXIETY DREAM 1

 

Dear Parents of Municipal Underground Worker 5674,

 

I am writing to express my sincere regret

and profoundest apologies that left

your son among his ancestors too soon

on the morning of the 23rd, and, I suppose

to furnish you with a brief account

of how the incident transpired. We met

that morning as arranged  beneath the streets

at a juncture of the sewage system

best known for its recent renovation

a synthetic net along the tunnel walls and roof

designed so your son and others like him

could hang from their wing-claws when on breaks

or while conducting our inspections of the wires

and pipes -- our business that morning.

I was surprised to be greeted by not five

workers such as your son but instead

by a number of his comrades exceeding five

and probably in the range of many thousands

 calling to each other in piping cries.

I remember blanching at the thought of

all the paperwork.  I had no idea in light

of the present economic miracles that your son’s

friends were in such need of employment.

I called out a few instructions and on we went,

the workers following me in a impressive cloud

breaking apart in short swoops through the violet

and insufficent light, which changed at the shaft.

In fact it became quite strong, bright, and excited

all your son’s company, especially when I began

to climb the ladder toward the street; they formed

a vertical funnel around me and shrieked and

chittered; trying to assist , they hooked

my clothing as I rose and tried to lift and the air

above me was choked off, the shaft’s far hole

was a storm of circling and ever-joining wings

and I could not feel my body, only theirs,

and I lost it, I admit, I panicked, taking no care

I only wanted to break free and that is when

my foot encountered a softer rung and I

pushed down, through your son’s delicate

and helpless brain, pieces of which I scraped

from my shoe andsweating, already in a sickening

grief, threw my self upwards in the furry void

to lie gasping with his body in my fist

on the sidewalk where, in a canopy of swiftly

crossing figure eights, as I understand is your custom,

they keened above me as I beat the ground 

 

and tried past reason to  reassemble his skull

using my thumb and forefinger, while his friends

summoned the proper authorities.  I must

 

break off.  Now, as every afternoon, the sun’s

rim blurs and flakes  off particles

that only I can see; how rapidly they circle;

how certainly they descend.

 

Again my condolences,

 

 

AS WAS

I did not mind my life.  For years

I squatted in the market, just past

the stall of bright silks,  half-naked

in the soot and flame, and banged

brass to a bright roil, heard

the bubble of solder,  hiss

of orange-tipped iron in water,

and drew the Kufic letters of his name

in soft copper with a nail

on long-handled coffeepots.

At some point I became a man.

The customers told me of

the various world,  ocean storms

and doldrums,  the sunken

brainlike world of coral, of

poison seashells with the smoothest

whorls, the prettiest echelons of

sawtooth pattern,  of maidens laughing

and splashing in jungle pools, where

crimson and mauve flicks of fish

dart under rocks, and in the hanging

canopy of vines, there,  a black

tail slowly swishing, sleek

panther yawning in the birdsong,

mocked by monkeys, primitively louche

on a low branch,  eyes burning

like gold in the pool below.  Ibn Battuta

himself has not travelled as I have

in their narratives, and my hands

kept crafting as they talked,

the details of the work submerged

in  motive, tongues always probing

for the obligation knotted decades down


 

the long rope ladder of my family;

their eyes dim twin entreaties

to be parleyed into gain, the words

polite and meaningless, the real subject

never surfacing, until  auspicious.

I have lived so long with the oblique,

I can no longer say things straight. 

At mealtimes I would stray

to the caravanserai, where came

the wanderers who needed more time

with the animals before entering

 

the human web.  Whole husks of moons

they had been between waters.  The animals’

eyes still held the strain of destination.

They’d loosen the leather and metal

riggings of the beasts, darkened by use

at the edges, crusty with  salt-sweat. 

The braided ropes, the fine-stitched

pannikins, the smooth-grooved saddles.

They fell in the dust in liberations.

There was a time when you could tell

the provenance of each traveler

by their deliberate, blue ridged scars,

their bracelets, tassels,  pierced ears and lips,

the wood discs in their mouths,

the bead rings round and round their necks,

their signature robes and turbans.

Now everybody is from everywhere;

they climb in tee shirts, jeans and sunglasses

from their dusty jeeps, and troop past

the rows of concrete shells, the junked cars

and satellite dishes to the one hotel.

They stop; I flog my copper gadgets.


 

I did not mind my life, the noise, the flame,

the crooked fingers of an artisan,  but in sum

it is the thin mist in the hollow of

a dream  I’ve had, so that a haggler’s tale

has as much substance as my own experience.

The beasts, they pawed the earth,

shook water, satisfied, from their jowls.

The dark-faced men with rifles cross their laps.

My family, how track their slow diaspora?

In my workshop sand blows in triangular

dunes in the corners, in which I stick

the reproachful , angular black hulks

of abandoned projects, metal untransformed.

At least, at last, the clouds and darkening hills

are sweet instances of how he, insinuator,

penetrator, sole divisor, has lent shape

from  shadow from his generosity, makes

stones swim underground and falcons

plummet, made the shifting gift

of water, and against the formless void

will have sketched the constellations.

The wind is more and more insistent.

 

THE BLOSSOMS OF CHANG AN

 

After years in government, a belly

and buttons that pull apart.  One glimpses

leaving the washroom  one’s tonsure.

 

Ripping up and planking down

the same language -- policy options

and downstream costs -- has worn

 

a hole in time, through which one

sees liver-spotted hands

riffling through papyri.

 

The silk suits and blazing ties

cruise through the grey halls

and palm the latest quicktalk toys.

 

Younger Colleague seems more

and more to preface his remarks

with “my generation”,

 

as he selects a shirt and tie

from his cubicle wardrobe,

having settled in for the long haul,

 

“My generation wonders what to do

with so many boomers still around--

I wonder if I really want

 

to be a deputy minister, with

pressure from above and below.

The policy wheel keeps turning.”

 

At lunch the females troop out

to shop, returning to the building

with what is rightfully theirs,

 

bright bags of purchases.

There are numerous passwords

required to do the public’s business --

 

the public!  A stalking beast,

its righteous scrutiny a legend,

its deep fear of change a legend. 

 

At times one forgets

what is in fashion --

centralized or regionalized.

 

One supports decisions

which will never get made;

at coffee the talk is of sensible

 

plans for mortgages and vacations.

Younger colleague confides in you:

“Retirement, what I don’t get

 

about it, is you’re not here

and all these important public

policy issues continue.”

 

The land is alternately governed

by entrepreneurial zealots

and socialist fantasists.

 

The city spreads out from

one’s window into folding,

purple, distant hills.

 

And in the late afternoons,

deep in the monitor, behind the glyphs,

in springtime where once rode

 

the successful young scholar,

slowly, softly, ceaselessly fall

the blossoms of Chang’an.

 

 

EMPTY TEMPLE

 

Luan qi ba zao, the throngs are slipping away,

the slit robes showing legs, luan qi ba zao,

half of them you never talked to, luan qi

ba zao, the stones are cold and tightly-fitted,

luan qi ba zao, the calligraphy hangs high

and mighty, wei shi shi biao, the candles gutter

in invasive breezes, luan qi ba zao,

the temple’s empty.

 

No way of telling if

fern ascending is

as real as fern descending.

in the pond.  Insects and steam

confuse the issue.  Persimmons

rot.  Gold koy turn

a murky circle.

 

You will tell the first person you see

about this empty temple.

You wipe your brow.

 

Be named at the new moon.

Don’t overchew your food.

 

 

_________________________________________

Luan qi ba zao, at sevens and eights, utter confusion

Wei shi shi biao, be a teacher to the world.

 

 

DAUGHTER, PLANETARIUM, 2006

 

She stands enduring, her I-pod to her ear

Beside me and the ceiling, whirring, opens.

An ink-wash of Copernicus downstairs;

Up here archaic chain and gears at work.

The tooths are greased, a rotary horizon to pull

The domed night open, but space is huge and

The telescope’s data can only be portrayed

In television patterns; yesterday, she stacked

Her chat line messages and multitasked them,

Coped, because as ever the young are skilled

Beyond our mastery and we can never visit

Their futures.  The screen pulses the emissions

Of fractal cosmic actors, and my daughter holds

My hand, to drag me yet a ways forward

Towards the serpents argent in the plumes

Of sea storms at the far quadrants of the known,

Towards the static from the stars. 

 

 

 

MEANWHILE EVIDENCE OF ADMIRAL ZHENG HE’S 1421-23 EXPEDITION TO NORTH AMERICA CONTINUES TO ACCUMULATE 

 

A researcher learns that Alabama has four-word proverbs, just like the Chinese. 

He drives all night to interview the oldest living expert.

He has a prominent Adam’s apple and sits in a rocking chair on the porch chewing baccy.

 

Understand you got four word proverbs here in Bama.

Most do, even those that think they ain’t.

Are there very many of them?

Yep.

What are they about?

Most got to do with them badass Grackle boys.  I could give you a sample:

Guard Dies Grackle Swings.

What does it mean?

It means it was surefire gonna happen, one way or other.

Or there’s Welfare Witch Sues Grackle, don’t never underestimate nobody.

Rabbit Test Pins Grackle is what goes around comes around.

Are any of them not about the Grackles?

Well there’s Gator Gator, Later Later.  Means you got the hell out.

And are any of them more than four words long?

Yeah, I was gonna mention Grackles Gone Bobby-Sue’s Prom,

But some of us experts done count Bobby-Sue as one word.

  

 

OWL AND THE UNBORN

 

Spring trail of mud and slugs.

You halt and whisper owl:

it blasts  from the loamy floor

of needles, cones and vole-holes ,

strobing through the branches,

to land in a recessed apse,

nothing too small to pierce its brain.

We lapse into a worship;

 

it cowls its wings, folds them back,

shuffles its claws and looks at us,

imperious fledged egg, as  a lazy

amniotic sunlight sparkles the bark

in dappling plasma.   We hush

and take small steps, drawn to the orb

of its face, the cat-ears and the oval

inset eyes, strange as the  gaze

 

of the girl we  lost,  in a spasm, 

in a gush, the bloody allantois

wet and sticky on your legs. 

Her voice the music soothing

through toy-cluttered rooms,  handprints

on every surface, and the chance

to miss what I had never wished--

your careworn future loveliness--

 

passes, and the owl  bursts

and glides to another branch.

 

Spring trail of mud and slugs.

 

 

SLUGS, MATING

 

The full moon is a distant palace,

didn’t you know, gone.

 

The slugs trace slime,

antennas like the horns

 

of patriarchal sacrifices, slither

down the porch column

 

to twine, snake-like,

until their tongues creep out,

 

probe, and enter the meniscal

tension between is and are,

 

Ishtar.  The tongue-knot

swells into a tesseractal,

 

starlit dancehall

where your more casual alleles in tuxedos

 

and slinky numbers lean

into martinis to the tinkling

 

stylings of a similarly horny orchestra,

and their eyes met across a crowded room,

 

but after a few minutes’

mix, tongues come undone,

 

and slugs are once again dark

lozenges on column,

then the column only,

 

and the moon a distant palace

for the morning star,

 

didn’t you know?


 

VENERATION


After a while, the human mind gets tired,

Grandpa said, and that's why his platoon

was able to gently lift Tommy guns from sleeping

German soldiers in those hot afternoons,

curled up in open basement shells;

they scarcely lifted their eyes when their hands

were lightened; it was no surprise, the smell

of clover overcoming cordite they awoke to

in the Netherlands.  A lifetime later, on rare furlough

from the nursing home, Grandpa, no higher

than his wheelchair, pulled up next to

the woman he had once wooed, desired,

his wife of fifty years, and said, Hi, Kay.

Hi, Frank, she said.  The human mind gets tired.


Michael Borich

 

Du Fu

My Thatch Roof Whirled Away By Winds

IT is the Eighth Month, the very height of Autumn.
The wind rages and roars.
It tears off three layers of my grass-roof.
The thatch flies – it crosses the river – it is scattered about in the open spaces by the river.
High-flying, it hangs, tangled and floating, from the tops of forest trees;
Low-flying, it whirls – turns – and sinks into the hollows of the marsh.
The swarm of small boys from the South Village laugh at me because I am old and feeble.
How dare they act like thieves and robbers before my face,
Openly seizing my thatch and running into my bamboo grove?
My lips are scorched, my mouth dry, I scream at them, but to no purpose.
I return, leaning on my staff. I sigh and breathe heavily.

Presently, all of a sudden, the wind ceases. The clouds are the color of ink.
The Autumn sky is endless – endless – stretching toward dusk and night.

 

            Whirled Away By Winds

              (after Tu Fu)

 

We planted an apple tree the first year

            So it would grow, as we grew,

So it would flower and fill the yard

            With shade and shimmer

 

In a green glow of sun, its thousand

Tongues sing hosanna

When the wind sang.  But the ground

Was rocky.  The tree tilted,

 

Listed in its grassy sea, its shallow

Roots wounded

By the mower's pass.  Sparrows

            Found it home, a family tree

 

They came back to every spring.

            Midsummer's fruit was worm-

Riddled in answer to our neglect:

            Were poisoned apples worse?

 

How we labored to hold it upright,

            While each storm sought

Its unanchoring.  And when at last

            It fell, the night we left—

 

A microburst of violence, neighbors

Said – branches and roof shingles

Strewn among rivulets of runoff,

The aftermath's unaccountable

           

Silence was no time to mourn.  We flew

West, to the Far East, nearer

To disaster than our children, back there,

Knew.  We came through

 

A sky of unseen turbulence, sleepless,

            Bruised and torn by what was never

Said, but safe, for a brief moment

Above a runway of beaconing lights.

 

 

A Solitary Life

 

He was born in a small village in Asia,

child of a peasant woman.

He was a poor laborer until He was thirty.

Then for three years He was a traveling teacher.

 

But those who once followed him

turned against him.  His friends ran away.

A close friend denied ever knowing Him.

Arrested by His enemies, he was beaten.

He went through a trial where liars accused him -- though he was innocent.

Found guilty, he was condemned to death.

His execution was slow and painful – three hours.

Bruised, bloody, He was laid in a borrowed grave.

 

20 long centuries have come and gone.

 

This man never owned a home.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never had a family.

He never went to a university.

He never traveled more than 100 kilometers from where He was born.

He never did one thing we usually expect of greatness.

 

Napoleon, the great French leader once said of this man:

 

All the armies that ever marched or navies that were ever built;

all the parliaments and kings that ever reigned, put together,

have not affected the life of men and women upon this earth

as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

 

His name was Jesus. . . Jesu

 

Solitude

 

Evenings he'd walk to be alone,

     up from the fishing village,

crossing flax and mustard fields,

 

past vegetable gardens, through

     fig and olive orchards,

up sheep paths toward reaches

 

of black basalt, to the limestone

     cliffs of Arbel, above the lake

shimmering with nets of light

 

the moon cast. Nightbirds hunting

     drifted in silence overhead

and in swooping, downward arcs

 

his eyes followed, stray thoughts

     of desire, shadow circles, out

flowing, invisible strands he drew

 

on the air with the stylus of his hand.

     His heart was an instrument

of prayer, more than his mind, a fire

 

he gave himself up to, as self-consuming

     as breathing was sustaining.  Was

it feeling he so humanly felt?  Faces

 

his senses carried into memory to refine?

     He knelt on a tuft of moss.

Later he lay prone, his arms wide as if

 

flying.  The warmth of the earth,

     his father near, hearing, the stars

colder and immeasurably farther,

 

 the scents -- were they eucalyptus,

     wild mint, lemon, hyacinth?--

kept him from falling.  He heard wings,

 

then weeping, incessant as weather. 

     How like children his disciples slept.  

As he prayed a robe of dew covered him.

 

  

America’s Poet – Robert Frost (1874-1963)

 

 

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

 

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

 

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

 

 

Frost at Midnight

 

(with thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Frost)

 

The door in the dark air, beyond the tree at my window,

     Will open one day into my own afterlife.  My mother will be

 Waiting in her organdy gown, tranquil, the fear emptied

 

From her eyes, her skin like fresh snow.  She will

     Say come, my lost butterfly, and lead me across

The pasture toward the distant woods which glimmer

 

With a dust of snow.  The bonfire of moon has burned

     Down and only the fragmentary blue lightfall of the stars

Remains.  I want to find my father in his ghost house,

 

And my brothers and sisters who have gone to gather blueberries

     Or wild grapes years ago.  Goodbye and keep cold I tell old

Friends who pass, their baskets filled with fire and ice from

 

The frozen orchard, the ice of love, and a question the wind

     Repeats: Is this life the gift outright, or is there another

Revelation clear and colder at the end of a late walk?

 

Is this the wrong road not taken?  What is the lesson for today?

     Still waiting, the figure in the doorway may not be my mother.

I go on reading, unhelped by any wind or the owlet's cry.


 

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM II (Du Fu)

 

This cloud, that has drifted all day through the sky,

May, like a wanderer, never come back....

Three nights now I have dreamed of you --

As tender, intimate and real as though I were awake.

And then, abruptly rising to go,

You told me the perils of adventure

By river and lake-- the storms, the wrecks,

The fears that are borne on a little boat;

 

And, here in my doorway, you rubbed your white head

As if there were something puzzling you.

...Our capital teems with officious people,

While you are alone and helpless and poor.

Who says that the heavenly net never fails?

It has brought you ill fortune, old as you are.

A thousand years' fame, ten thousand years' fame- -

What good, when you are dead and gone?

 

If Dogs Married Cats

 

Would their mewling

barks, their gruff purrs

Keep anyone awake?

 

If your lips were red, red roses,
and married mine, would thorns

Leave our kisses bloody?

 

If Yao Ming married

Gong Li, would their

Children be tall, beautiful,

 

Or short and athletic?

If Hillary Clinton married

Hu Jintao would they wed

 

In Hawaii and live in

The White House or

Perhaps the Sumer Palace?

 

If China married Canada

Would we change the name

To Chinada?  Would the flag

 

Have five gold stars rising

Over a red maple leaf?

If night married day

 

As they do at dusk

And we walked hand

In hand along the sea

 

To watch the moon rise

Like a bride in her white veil

As the sun, so like a man

 

Falls to sleep on the far horizon,

Just when the birds of romance

Begin to sing, would we think

 

Of the past, of how the past

Always marries the future, right

Now, right now, but only

 

For a brief and vanishing moment.