The sound of crows chased my dreams
Away this morning as effortlessly
As they drove the quiet vulture from
The black walnut tree behind the house
My family lives in. I won’t call anything mine,
Not even you. Not even the crows who spin out
And then return, black boomerangs.
They leave so they can come back.
The breeze picks up and forgets. Anything
outside, like wind chimes in the dark,
could be the voice of the vulture’s dream.
Two pine trees, like brothers who won’t talk.
Many of you know that Beloit Poetry Journal published two of my Mei Yao-ch’en poems about a year ago, just before I published the limited edition of Moonlight & Shadow which has recently sold out (before you ask, yes! I’m preparing a paperback edition).
Recently BPJ sent out its annual Valentine’s Day card, and I was honored when the editors told me they wanted lines from one of my poems to be on the card.
BPJ’s long been one of the long term signs of the vigor of poetry. If you’re not already a subscriber, think of subscribing for a year and seeing for yourself. I will forever be grateful to this journal for giving me a chance to introduce more people to my old friend Mei Yao-ch’en in the Winter 2015/16 issue — and now again on a card that sends wishes for peace, love and poetry to their readers.
Thursday, Mild Evening, from the misunderstood Chinese poet
The Watchman’s rattle. Used to bind, to tie.
Used for the sound. The lining of the shoe,
hip bone. An example, from the above,
a register of a love which means two things,
To read or to row a boat.
A tent. A stick. An octopus.
Only two of its legs mean the number eight.
I can hear the Lover’s tears.
A mountain turns on its ribs and sniffs the air
And sees us: two boats fastened side by side.
You will never be at anchor.
There are more graves than waves at sea.
We sail through our dead with every step
And honor the skill of dead-reckoning — figure out
where you are from where you’ve been —
Always a looking-back. Just ahead
Of the breastbone, like cartilage that catches
Flight, is the curve that carves our path.
Out in the sky, no one sleeps.
The door opened to the boundaries of the hand.
The lines of tigers swam across your palm.
The lover’s collarbone is a galaxy of questions,
A swerve of star-white desire the planes of history
Fly beneath, orienting themselves to darting fish
Shivering in Star River. Out past the sleepless
Boundaries, tigers take new territory.
When there are stars
The train is always departing
Or skidding through without stopping.
Because the crows blend in to the night sky
They lose their right to complain
If a thought intrudes on the view.
The thought– it wakes you in the night
After the candle has guttered into its glass
And the house is a helmet too small to wear
When there are stars. The thought’s engine
Is fierce but its tracks have already been laid,
It will go right on by whether consciousness
Stands by with its ticket or not:
When the train wakes me in the dark
I think of people I know, the cost
Of their freight, of a mile of empty cars
Pushing through the darkness with dust
Their only passengers. In the morning
The crows stomp their feet soundlessly
But can finally speak again, about everything
They saw when their eyes were closed
And they slept above the earth, like the stars
We do not see during the day. About
An empty train and what it used to carry.
The man who will die
Some day oh daughter, resting next to me
You will hear the breath of the man
Who will die. One day, not today, you will see
In my eyes finally the glance of a person
Who will not live forever as I saw once
In my father’s gaze, still piercing
But unable to break a veil of loneliness miles
Away where his wife sat up suddenly
Remembering only his name and not
Those of her sons or daughters. As I heard in her
Breath of resignation one day when words
Would not come and the unsayable sentence
Dropped over her head like a hangman’s hood.
But not this breath. Though for several years
I have heard it in my own breathing
Or seen it in the eyes studying me in the depth
Behind the mirror, I will keep these from you
As long as I can. And someday, not today,
When you see them you will say nothing,
Thinking surely you did not hear what you heard
Or saw what you saw. But I will know, though
I will already have begun to forget why.
The poem grows out of the words like a weed.
It does not recognize the borders of letterforms.
Your voice is the sound of your hands finding me
In a dream. Creating my body as they go.
The poem’s tendrils wind over and around each other
Always in a clockwise motion, like time.
Each reader is a rainfall on a spring night.
The words are not gone but are forgotten.
Even the green tangle is ignored
For the flowers floating like open hands.
Each reader is an insect, on a busy mission.
Will they come away with something?
The reader stops and looks at her hands.
She rubs them together, and a word comes to mind.
Reading sheet music
The guitar arpeggios are the roofs of nearly identical houses
In a small village. The streets are covered in snow, no one
Goes in or out. But the temperature even at night has turned mild,
No smoke rises from the roofs, which are spotted with moonlight.
In the morning a dog runs through the alleys, pausing here and there
To check out something new. Snow slides off a roof in the morning sun.
The moon looks out the window.
Reflects on the pane of consciousness
Thin as a snack. Feels himself sliding
Across it, helpless. At the edge
He will become something that does not exist
In the real world. Something partial
In a place where even broken things are whole.