Spring Night (after Wang Wei)

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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.

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“Spring Night” last appeared here in February 2018.

Poems for Peace Reading on Friday, April 12 in San Antonio

You are invited to a reading of

The Larger Geometry: poems for peace

Featuring

Jim LaVilla-Havelin, Patricia Spears Bigelow, Jeanie Sanders, Rachel Clark, Michael Vecchio, Robert Okaji, d. ellis phelps, and Rebecca Raphael

With Brianna Martinez on flute!

Friday, April 12, 2019 P.M. at The Twig Book Shop, 306 Pearl Parkway #106, San Antonio

Free & open to the public.

I’m delighted to be reading at my favorite San Antonio bookshop in the company of good friends and friends-to-be!

 

 

At Work I Stand Observing My Diminished Self

 

At Work I Stand Observing My Diminished Self

 

1 (reflection)

Six iterations, alike but lessened in sequence, and always in pairs:
front and back, oblique, the two mirrors becoming four, then six.

A perfect mirror reflects and neither transmits nor absorbs light.

Tilting my chin, I accept reflectance according to its distribution.

Retina as transducer, producing neural impulses.

The images consume no space but the effect is of distance.

Vision is not simply the retina’s translation
but counts inference and assumption among its influences.

The sum and product of its parts: 1 + 2 + 3, or, 1 x 2 x 3.

Angles achieve distinctions apparent at each adjustment.

Turning slightly, I detect movement in each replica.

A six-door cubic cage depicting the bondage of sense and elements.

It is possible to withdraw from this frame.

 

2 (answers)

Does the weaker eye perceive less.
Who conceals the shadow’s death.
Is a distal truth a lie or merely implication.
How do you rid the mirror of its ghosts.
What resonates in the echo’s decline.
Did the light switch subvert the blackened image.
Apparition, projection or visual representation.
When do waves not disturb.
At what point does belief transmute sight.
What fixes the mirror’s image.
Who closed his eyes and saw light.

 

3 (prosopagnosia)

I sip coffee and gaze out the second-floor window.

More light enters my neighbor’s office than mine.

Calculate the difference between illumination and glare.

Looking ahead, I claim no face and recognize no one.

The eye converts a signal from one form of energy to another.

Accepting light from external objects, I perceive reflection as the true arbiter.

The dissected path impairs transduction.

Face as identifier: to make, to do.

Translation: imperfection: diminishment.

Blink.

* * *

“At Work I Stand Observing My Diminished Self” was published in Posit in October 2017.

Letter from Insomnia

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Letter from Insomnia

Accepting Li Po’s tragedy,
apocryphal or not,

we embrace her imperfect
reflection
rippling in the breeze,

but manage to surface.

I once thought I would name a child Luna
and she would glow at night

and like Hendrix, kiss the sky.
But that was whimsy

and only candles light this room
at this hour
on this particular day
in this year of the snake.

And what fool would reach for a stone orbiting at
1,023 meters per second?

There are clouds to consider, the stars
and the scattering rain

and of course wine
and the possibilities within each glass
and the drops therein.
We must discuss these matters

under her gaze, where smallness gathers.

 

* * *

This originally appeared in Middle Gray in October, 2013. It was written in response to a poem my friend Michael sent me, replying to this poem.

 

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Laolao Pavilion (after Li Po)

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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.

 

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First posted here in June 2014.

Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams

 

 

Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams

If all our voices were to meet in the atmosphere
what could the rain achieve?

When we give nothing we have nothing.

Is it enough to listen?

Wisps and heaps, ripples and sheets.

Accumulated, dispersed, fingers
unknotting death’s
grip, steps taken around the flames,

in caution, in delight,
imagining the greatest undoings.

 

 

“Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams” was first published in Red River Review, in August 2018.

 

Track (after Tranströmer)

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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.