Echo Charm

Echo Charm

Right on left, or returned

what circles back, unbroken
yet opened?

Your mouth centers me.

Diminished, I rise, listening.

Grass rubbing against grass.
The lizard’s scarlet throat, swelling.

Not refusal, but denial.

Eyes the color of blood.

You practice your words carefully,
repeating each special phrase.

Blood the color of sky.

Sky the color of eyes.

And always the warm shade.

Scarecrow Remembers

 

Scarecrow Remembers

I recall nothing before my eyes captured
the horizon and the looped whorl of night’s
afterglow, the first crow-plumes
crossing from left to right, awakened to
everything but my history and what
preceded the morning. By midday
I had mastered the secret language of
corvids and learned to interpret the wind’s
folly. When the sun eased below the hills,
I divined the angle of declination and tilted
my head to true north, thinking this is my
calling, to point the way.
But how few
of us bottle our life’s cause to sip as
needed. Later my dark friends whispered
the truth, and we laughed among the
rustling stalks as I pointed the way
not to the Alhambra or even Wichita,
but to the choicest kernels. Placed here
for one purpose, another claimed me.
I am the future without past, the present
decaying, tomorrow’s joke, impermanent
and shadowed. I am anomaly, risen.

* * *

“Scarecrow Remembers” was first published at The High Window in December 2016.

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

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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.

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Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)

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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

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Palinode (platelets, sign, color)

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Palinode (platelets, sign, color)

Cloistered, it circulates and combats, feeds, heals
and defends, destroying, at times, its host, and thereby
itself. Extracted, it congeals into a dark symbol,
resembling our innermost facade. The reddened
moon, incorruptible and estranged. A bull’s eye.
I pressure it daily, measuring flow and constricting
elements. Numinous river, source of strength, the internal flood.

The internal flood summons bitterness,  application
of the embodied life, rubedo. I inscribe my name in
three strokes: the upright, the downward curve, the
encompassing circle, omitting the between: as above,
so below
. The color-blind more accurately perceive
texture, alleviating the effects of spectral sensitivity.
We build from within, flowing outward in unison.

Flowing outward, split asunder, I assume the neural
response. Color, as expression, as survival factor,
attractant and warning. As symbol. The ancients
buried red pigment with bones to hasten renewal.
Life energy, passion and rage. The force in bodies,
in spirit, in blood. Shade of the alchemist’s sulfur,
glowing embers, ash, the transitory energy of human desire.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in ditch, in January 2014, and was posted here in January 2017..

Night Journey (after Tu Fu)

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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.

Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

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Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

First heaven took my wife,
and now, my son.
These eyes will never dry
and my heart slowly turns to ash.
Rain seeps far into the earth
like a pearl dropped into the sea.
Swim deep and you’ll see the pearl,
dig in the earth and you’ll find water.
But when people return to the source,
we know they’re gone forever.
I touch my empty chest and ask, who
is that withered ghost in the mirror?

* * *

“Sheng-yu’s Lament” 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:

Heaven already take my wife
Again again take my son
Two eyes although not dry
(Disc) heart will want die
Rain fall enter earth in
Pearl sink enter sea deep
Enter sea can seek pearl
Dig earth can see water
Only person return source below
Through the ages know self (yes)
Touch breast now ask who
Emaciated mirror in ghost

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