Why are you still here?

(after Li Bai)
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It’s spring, you say – Why are you still here?

The lichens are slowly turning
The mountain rock to new dirt,
The snowmelt is carrying the old dirt away;

Why are you still here?

I smile; my heart
Beats as slowly as the mountain’s heart.

A peach blossom, ripped from the twig
By the pummeling spring rain,
May be carried by freshet, by gully,
By stream, by river – clear to the sea, maybe;

So too me:
ripped from heaven,
Halfway to somewhere else by now.

Which is why I have no answer.

 

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Nuisance crow

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Nuisance crow
on an old fencepost:

green field behind;
brown hills in the distance;

gravel road,
deadleaf trees,
white sky,
world all around —

when did it all become
not worth a mention?

I fear my sixth decade
will make me an old man yet.

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and the night hold no memories

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and the night hold no memories
but what we can read from it
time is not now
nor am I time’s ghost

read not by dint of a writing
since words are water
O hush of crickets mother me home
like matins like a bell

she is gone, gone to the sea
is gone to it, gone forever
and now every black shadow
seems a good place to hide

O hush and mother me home
like an awkward drum at night-time
like an empty coat
in a room full of empty coats

gigantic hush of crickets
and the moon giving no light
to see these black streets
only the intersections lit up

to see again from this height
between the crossed streets the shadows
darkness dimly lit
the moon

meanwhile all of them
are joining their way homeward
two and by two
two and by two

all are parting the cool air
O and when it closes behind them
they are come home
they are arrived

 

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there’s something sacred

First and Last Word

there’s always been something
sacred about a lost corner

of cracked asphalt
under the daylong sun

where absolutely nothing grows
except the sad weeds

 

just as I thought I heard
trumpets sound

though I was taught
the walls were long down

I noted the prophet
head cocked patient

sitting on the curb
beside the riven pavement

and knew there were still ramparts
and work for the trumpeters

 

from my mundane height I hear
every car on the road

every radio every satellite
how much more

does he hear sitting down there
among the holy holy weeds

 

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How lovely is the semblance

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How lovely is the semblance
Eternity is come
And Past and Future gathered are
In compass of this room;

How beautiful the sleeping form
The eyes that look within
The hands that do not seek to grasp
The legs that will not run;

Though Memory’s in water writ
However still it pools
This vision having once had
I cannot bear to lose;

I shall become a student
At that patient school of art
That studies years to draw one line
Direct from eye to heart.

 

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dreamed

4-bears

dreamed
I was
pursued
by 4 bears

1 was continually arriving from beyond the east
1 was striking like a hammer without any anvil
1 was in love with god who tangled him up like a vine
1 was singing like a river om om om om

by 4 bears
pursued
I was
dreamed

 

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The Ring of Fire

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This summer I breathed with you
Past a thousand miles of dead volcanoes
To where the night was a room
Unlit by our lamps.

An owl had outfaced us
Across an empty highway
Flapped into mastered dark
Left us onrushing helplessly.

We stopped just once to argue
About time and commerce.
You had the money but I had the keys
And after that we drove on together.

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It was the gods all right

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And the golden gods went by running
When the day was ending and the sun.
You may not have noticed, they could have been anyone

Except the way the light
Penetrated the world just then;
Except the way the aspen’s goldcoin leaves
Quivered as if air were water;
Except the way the birds went on singing
Even after night rose up all around;
Except the way the bat cut new sigils into the dark
And the way the stars were bright.

They’re gone now but yes
It was the gods all right.

 

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