Hummingbird (4)

hummer

Hummingbird (4)

What overwhelms is the fate
of our breath
moving from one mouth

to the other, a form of
denial flickering by

like the hummingbird,
impossible in flight
but moving despite our logic.
The air

claims no intention. It waits,
and waiting, gives itself to us.

The gift we accept is of ourselves.

hummer2

“Hummingbird (4)” was written in the 80s, and first appeared here in July 2015.

Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

file3461249385398

Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

Five White cat always made sure
no rats gnawed my books,
but this morning Five White died.

On the river I offered up rice and fish,
and buried you in its lazy currents,
chanting my lament. I could never neglect you.

One time you caught a rat
and carried it squealing around the yard
to frighten all the other rats
and keep my cottage clear of them.

We’ve shared space aboard this boat,
and although the food is meager
it’s free of rat piss and droppings
because you were so diligent,
more so than any chicken or pig.

Some people speak highly of horses,
saying nothing compares to them or donkeys.
But we’re done with that discussion!

My tears prove it so.

* * *

The transliteration from Chinese-poems.com:

Self have 5 white cat
Rat not invade my books
Today morning 5 white die
Sacrifice with rice and fish
See off it at middle river
Incantation you not you neglect
Before you bite one rat
Hold in mouth cry around yard remove
Want cause crowd rat frightened
Thought will clear my cottage
From board boat come
Boat in together room live
Dry grain although its thin
Evade eat drip steal from
This real you have industriousness
Have industriousness surpass chicken pig
Ordinary person stress spur horse drive
Say not like horse donkey
Already finish not again discuss
For you somewhat cry

A Song Dynasty poet, Mei Yao-ch’en (or Mei Yaochen) died in 1060. His great poems live on.

DSC_1646

Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)

P1010508


Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)

These quiet days are ending
and now I must leave.

I miss my home’s fragrant grasses
but will grieve at parting – we’ve

eased each other’s burdens on this road.
True friends are scarce in life.

I should just stay there alone, forever
behind the closed gate.

* * *

“Parting from Wang Wei” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Quiet end what wait
Day day must go return
Wish seek fragrant grass go
Grieve with old friend separated
On road who mutual help
Understanding friend life this scarce
Only should observe solitude
Again close native area door

file5971307479422

Katharsis

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

KATHARSIS

The questions, as always: which rocks to ignore, who will
place them, and how to defy the laws of mathematics.

Note: you will create two separate walls to build one.
You will measure length and depth. You will weigh consequence.

Dig a shallow trench, and set your first two foundation stones
at a slight angle, high points on the outside, low ends meeting

in the middle. Count your failures and multiply them by 100.
Let gravity share the burden, then discard every one. Take

care in selecting your stones. Scorpions lurk in the dark,
underneath. Wear heavy gloves. Use leverage. Seek balance.

Avoid the smooth and rounded, as they too readily relinquish
their footing. Select hard-angled, rough pieces. Accept

faults, and work with them. Stack carefully — the two walls
should lean inward, touching, each bearing the other’s

weight. Work alone, but think to the future, with strength in
mind. Be deliberate. One stone, followed by another. Repeat.

pen

“Katharsis” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30/30 Project. Many thanks to Plain Jane who sponsored and provided the title.

As the Gravy Flows

 

As the Gravy Flows

Viscosity is always a consideration, as is definition:
traditionally a sauce composed of meat juices and
thickeners, or, a sediment of melted tallow, which
somehow brings to mind a laborer rising early after
a hard night, eating red-eye, made of fried ham
drippings and coffee, served over grits. Or perhaps
an egg gravy – a béchamel sauce flavored by bacon,
with water and milk, and an egg – ladled over butter-
rubbed biscuits. But then I picture my vegetarian
friends pushing away from plates of this fine repast,
and not wishing to deny them or those following a vegan
lifestyle, we turn to roasted vegetables with broth, oils
and wine and a savory yeast extract. But I can’t fathom
a life without giblet gravy, which features the neck and
offal of fowl, including the liver, the taste of which may
be too strong for other recipes using giblets, an interesting
word in itself, from the Old French for a game-bird stew,
and the Middle English meaning of an inessential
appendage, or entrails, morphing to garbage. I would
never throw out an onion gravy, essentially a thick sauce
of slow-cooked onion and stock or wine, and admit to
having tasted a cream version with the consistency and
flavor of diluted paste, indicating a lack of balance in
flavor and poor roux-making technique. My favorite
would be an Italian-American buddy’s gravy, his word
for a rich ragù of sausage, braised beef and shredded
pork, red wine, tomatoes and herbs, served over pasta.
This of course stretches the definition of the word, but
language is elastic, is it not? So it flows, as does the gravy.

“As the Gravy Flows” was drafted during the August 2016 30/30 Challenge. Thank you to Lady Phoenix for sponsoring the poem and providing the title!

Poem Up at Vox Populi

My poem “Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket” is live at Vox Populi, paired  with an analysis of Putin’s payoff on his financial investments in Trump’s career.

Thank you, Michael Simms, for supporting and featuring my poetry.

Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

IMGP3335

Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

Wind bends the grass along the road.
A lonely truck passes by.
Stars reach down to touch these hills
and the moon drifts behind.

No one will ever know my poems.
I am too old and ill to work.
Circling, floating, who am I
but a vulture looking down.

First posted in March, 2014.

This is not a translation, but rather a version, my “take” on a famous Tu Fu poem. I claim no abilities in translation, neither speak nor read Chinese, and instead depend upon the skills of those who have ventured into these difficult reaches. This is where the poem carries me, a middle-aged Texas hill county dweller, in the Year of the Horse, 2014.

“Night Journey” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.

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

Nocturnal Reflections While Traveling

Gently grass soft wind shore
Tall mast alone night boat
Stars fall flat fields broad
Moon rises great river flows

Name not literary works mark
Official should old sick stop
Flutter flutter what place seem
Heaven earth one sand gull

My goal was to retain the mood, as I understand it, of the original, and to place it into my personal context. An interesting exercise.