Spring Night (after Wang Wei)

file4401311417052

Spring Night (after Wang Wei)

Among falling devilwood blossoms, I lie
on an empty hill this calm spring night.
The moon lunges above the hill, scaring the birds,
but they’re never quiet in this spring canyon.

Another try at an old favorite…

I consider this adaptation rather than translation, but perhaps appropriation or even remaking might be more accurate.

Here’s the transliteration from chinese-poems.com:

Person idle osmanthus flower fall
Night quiet spring hill empty
Moon out startle hill birds
Constant call spring ravine in

So many choices, none of them exactly right, none of them entirely wrong. How does one imply idleness, what words to use for “flower” (blossom? petal?), or for that matter, “fall” (descend, flutter, spiral)? And how to describe a moonrise that scares the constantly calling birds? My first attempt began:

“I lie among the falling petals”

but it seemed vague. The word “osmanthus” fattened my tongue, or so it felt, but the osmanthus americanus, otherwise known as devilwood or wild olive, grows in parts of Texas. So I brought the poem closer to home.

I considered naming the birds (quail came to mind) but decided against. In this case the specificity felt somehow intrusive.

My hope is that I’ve managed to amplify, in some small way, previous iterations, and that while the edges are still a bit blurred in morning’s first light, perhaps they’ll become slightly crisper by the evening.

file8981286030058

“Spring Night” last appeared here in February 2018.

Inquisition

IMAG0153

 

Inquisition

1.
I breathe smoke
from the fire
warming our feet

Something is not right
but not wrong
yet

like the bones’ dance
on wires
in a bad dream

Fear’s sharp blade twists
burning with the slow
heat of coals

2.
I cannot read ashes
the message
of cracked stones in desert light

nor the poetry
of the cow’s skull
white on dark sand

What right has a man

And the snake’s
quivering tongue tasting
what the air brings to him

 

file0001288673865

 

Originally posted in December 2014. One of my earliest published pieces, this first appeared in Taurus, in 1984. Curiously, this is not the piece that I remembered having been published in Taurus. I wonder if that poem still exists somewhere? Such is memory…

 

Laolao Pavilion (after Li Po)

file0001681287329

 

Another attempt at adapting Li Po. A note on Chinese-poems.com stated “at this time, the breaking of a willow twig was part of formal leave-taking.”

 

Laolao Pavilion (after Li Po)

Where do more hearts break under heaven?
This sad pavilion, where visitors part,
the spring wind whispers bitter goodbyes
and willow twigs never mend.

Transliteration from Chinese-poems.com:

Heaven below damage heart place
Laolao see off visitor pavilion
Spring wind know parting sorrow
Not send willow twig green.

 

file000171156221

First posted here in June 2014.

Track (after Tranströmer)

file000826525674(1)

 

Track (after Tranströmer)

2 p.m.: Sunlight. The subway flows
beneath us. Flecks of darkness
shimmer madly on the wall.

As when a man cracks a window into a dream,
remembering everything, even
what never occurred.

Or after skimming the surface of good health,
all his nights become ash, billowing clouds,
strong and warm, suffocating him.

The subway never stops.
2 o’clock. Filtered sunlight, smoke.

 

* * *

I’ve been dipping into Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Robert Bly’s 1975 translations of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer, and I couldn’t resist playing with one of my favorite poems. A different darkness, a separate space, another landscape…

This first appeared here in April 2015.

N Is Its Child

 

N Is Its Child

If darkness produces all, from where do we obtain nothing?

As a line becomes the circle, becomes a mouth, becomes identity.

In mathematics, n signifies indefinite; in English, negation.

The no, the non, the withdrawal, the taking away.

A heart with trachea represented zero in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

My mouth forms the void through the displaced word.

Conforming to the absent, the missing tongue serves soundlessness.

Aural reduction, the infinite unclenched: n plus n.

Shiva, creator and destroyer, defines nothingness. As do you.

One and one is two, but zero and zero is stasis.

Pythagoreans believed that all is number, and numbers possess shape.

The letter N evolved from a cobra to its present form.

One may double anything but zero.

Unspoken thought, disorder. The attenuated voice swallowing itself.

 

* * *

N Is Its Child” was first published in Issue 4 of ReservoirI am grateful to editor Caitlin Neely for accepting this piece.

 

Between

between

 

Between

1

Living between, we watch what flows below us shed itself.

And what remains after the drought subsides?

I don’t recall the instance of assignation, of color-imprinted
awareness and stones erupting from the earth,

nor the paper’s texture and the faint odor of chemicals reacting,
but in this moment I embrace bitter coffee, the wrecked-nerve

hammer-strikes pulsing from hip to ankle, squealing brakes
and the rain shallowing morning’s ridge as if to say

enjoy me now
for I may never return
.

2

Faith flickers in the wind, darting among the weeds.

Risen from payment, penalty, punishment, revenge, the word pain
establishes justification where none need exist.

Interpreting light and sound, scent and heat, we converse.

The dog shivers in bed and I lay a towel over her,
affixing content to involuntary movement.

Stepping through space, crossing the stream.

Those things we don’t know.

Three feet below me the snake’s head ripples towards the far side,
a V of turbulence dissecting the calm.

Everything that can be contained contains us as we in turn
envelop one another. I take your hand and press forward.

3

Connected, we part, only to return and part again.

My hand stopped inches away and the diamondback slithered off
under the workbench, seeking peace.

Abandoned skin, abandoned words. Even the cactus grows thirsty.

The paradox of becoming what you are not. Today, sitting hurts
and standing provides little relief.

In one of two halves I find myself. In the other, your laughter rings.

Like rumblings of earthen discontent or the hiss of air
exiting waterless pipes, we emerge, aimless, exhausted.

Inhabiting one world, we seek others.

 

* * *

“Between” appeared in Clade Song, one of my favorite poetry journals, in August 2016. 

 

 

Biography (Cento)

cage

 

Biography (Cento) 

I am becoming
one of the old

men, but you,
you are earth.

Where is the moment
that lingers,

the static of lost
voices and the feel

of the cleft in the bark.
Ask me anything.

Why am I
grown so cold?

Have you been here?
Thinking

is wind in a cage;
it does not say anything.

 

* * *

Credits:

James Wright, Cesare Pavese, Ruth Ellen Kocher, HD, Eduardo C. Corral,
Adelaide Crapsey, Denise Levertov, Blaga Dimitrova, Jacques Roubaud,

* * *

A cento is composed of lines from poems by other poets.

For further information and examples of the form, you might peruse the Academy of American Poets site: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-cento

 

globe

This first appeared here in September 2016.