Primitive Resonance

Primitive Resonance

I don’t want to believe it, either—
so I won’t, until the image clears.

Then there is only what there is
and I won’t have to believe anything

I can’t see, or in anything I can’t see.
Maybe belief is only what we practice

while waiting. I only know I’d kill anything
and hold it up to the sun to see you safe.

If You Have Never Had An 11th Century Sung Dynasty Poet Help Your Family Pick Out a Christmas Tree at Lowe’s, You Do Not Know What You Are Missing, Where Even A Drive-By Consumerist Tradition Acquires Some Level of Evidence of Tzu-Jan, the Success of the Search is a Fine Example of the Generative Force At Work, and Also, Mei Yao-ch’en Really Knows How to Tie Knots with Twine to Secure the Tree on Top of Our Minivan, Though Not So Much How To Untie Them, And So While I Am Cutting the Knots Apart So That My Van is Not Covered with Streams of Twine Like Cartoon Action Swooshes When We Drive, He Is Writing This Poem On the Underside Of our Tree Skirt, But I Catch Him Finishing It and Transcribe It Here, Wondering How Many Other Poems I May Not Find Until After He Has Gone

If You Have Never Had An 11th Century Sung Dynasty Poet Help Your Family Pick Out a Christmas Tree at Lowe’s, You Do Not Know What You Are Missing, Where Even A Drive-By Consumerist Tradition Acquires Some Level of Evidence of Tzu-Jan, the Success of the Search is a Fine Example of the Generative Force At Work, and Also, Mei Yao-ch’en Really Knows How to Tie Knots with Twine to Secure the Tree on Top of Our Minivan, Though Not So Much How To Untie Them, And So While I Am Cutting the Knots Apart So That My Van is Not Covered with Streams of Twine Like Cartoon Action Swooshes When We Drive, He Is Writing This Poem On the Underside Of our Tree Skirt, But I Catch Him Finishing It and Transcribe It Here, Wondering How Many Other Poems I May Not Find Until After He Has Gone

Why not this one? My host’s wife stands at the entrance
to Lowe’s, pointing to the very first tree in the lot.

Not even under the store’s protective canopy, close to the curb,
its boughs crusted with the day-old remainder of a Thanksgiving flurry.

Come on, my host says, disappearing into a tree-filled cavern larger than
Buddha Hall at the Universal-Purity monastery. What’s wrong with this one,

she asks me. It’s a fine tree and I say so, and in my travels I have seen this
hardy fir grown the height of forty men. I know its nature. This tree existed

before leaves learned to arch themselves across sunlight; before grass
spread across the plains this tree braced itself against sharp young mountains.

What difference does it make which one you choose? But for this one,
it’s full, flexible, with a strong base, just the right size for the corner

you have cleared in the living room for its arrival. And here it is,
the very first tree we see, out of hundreds, as if it is waiting for us

to brush a few chunks of ice off its coat and welcome it. She holds it
at arm’s length, and smiles. Then it is settled, she says.

Now if we could just find my husband and brush the ice off him.
He’ll come back soon, I say. Some just have to go searching.

To the one missing her father inexplicably on a warm day after an ice storm

To the one missing her father inexplicably on a warm day after an ice storm

Mid-morning snow after a night of sleet.
Ice is melting off the roofs, descending

faster than flakes can fall, but they go
only their own speed, unconcerned

with making up the distance

Through a window, December night after rain

Through a window, December night after rain

Negative space of roof and branches
are defined by the rising moon, crow-sized

negative image of the crow’s solid eye. Just the other
day, a young pileated woodpecker stood

right where the moon is tonight, as bright,
exactly as big, cartoonish, sounding like a monkey

afraid of the moon in the leafless branches

Discussing an Archaeological Curiosity From Perhaps the Han Dynasty Which He Would Write a Poem About in 1052 After Being Introduced to the Aforementioned Artifact at a Drinking Party at the Home of a Calligrapher, Mei Yao-ch’en and I Find It Curious That This Artifact Triggers Deeper Discussion About the Nature of His Visit from the Eleventh Century As Well As His Eventual Departure From the Twenty-First Century to Finish the Rest of His Life, Including Attending a Certain Party at the Home of Ts’ai Chun-Mo Mentioned Earlier, Towards the Success of Which We Begin Drinking in Advance

Discussing an Archaeological Curiosity From Perhaps the Han Dynasty Which He Would Write a Poem About in 1052 After Being Introduced to the Aforementioned Artifact at a Drinking Party at the Home of a Calligrapher, Mei Yao-ch’en and I Find It Curious That This Artifact Triggers Deeper Discussion About the Nature of His Visit from the Eleventh Century As Well As His Eventual Departure From the Twenty-First Century to Finish the Rest of His Life, Including Attending a Certain Party at the Home of Ts’ai Chun-Mo Mentioned Earlier, Towards the Success of Which We Begin Drinking in Advance

When they dug at Lang-yeh to build the city wall,
deep in the earth they found a bronze trigger.

Its silver inlaid lines of calibration now far removed
from crossbow and arrow—all that remains

are the lines, and the eye that looks upon them.
Archaeologists would debate for hundreds of years

exactly how the calibration lines worked, what they lined up–
inventing again and again the marvelous weapon

none had seen, found where the city’s defenses would be built.
I will write a poem about this trigger in the year

I return to my homeland; so my host tells me–
he has the advantage of my entire life’s work

in a book.  I only know what I have written so far!
Yet I am sure tonight, discussing this poem

dug out of a book of the future, a poem whose lines
of calibration will be a mystery to me until the day

I write them, that we’ve uncovered the trigger that will
send me back, we were the marvelous weapon

yet to be built–me the arrow and he the bow
lining up on the open edge of midlife’s sight.

It’s how you got here, my host tells me. By the time
a poem reaches its reader all that remains

is a trigger waiting to be found. What it calibrated
once is a mystery, as if that even matters.

All that remains are the lines,
and the eye that looks upon them.

 

December Rain

December Rain

 

At every room in the house the sound of rain is tapping.
Like the echo of us trying to tap on the wall

to see if what is on the other side is listening.
How what’s outside us is there, there.

How it doesn’t want in. With an open window
it is still content with leaves on the ground.

Drinking an Australian Shiraz Cabernet Wine with Mei Yao-ch’en and Giggling At A Cat Pawing at its Reflection in a Mirror, My Thousand Year Old Friend Gets Reflective Without Getting Deep, Or Maybe It is the Other Way Around

Drinking an Australian Shiraz Cabernet Wine with Mei Yao-ch’en and Giggling At A Cat Pawing at its Reflection in a Mirror, My Thousand Year Old Friend Gets Reflective Without Getting Deep, Or Maybe It is the Other Way Around

 

When a mirror is leaned against a wall and slides to the floor on its back
because a cat has been picking a fight with itself, it’s not bad luck in any century:

Unless I missed something by skipping the Middle Ages, I tell my host
as I lean down to pick it up. We’re in the middle ages now, Sheng-yu, he says

but I’m not listening, I’m suddenly as dumb as the cat, looking down, one hand
reaching for the mirror’s frame, and see myself reaching up from beneath the floor

behind the thin glass—my first impulse is to recoil, think you’re not pulling me
down again!
But shouldn’t I have thought, can I help you get back on your feet?

Never confuse reflection with direction, my host advises, filling my cup.
When a cat looks in a mirror, it never sees what is not there.