Category Archives: Poetry

Reclusion (2)

Note: When I revise a poem at all, it usually works like this: I write a poem, I walk away from it for a bit, then reading it again I take the bottom 2/3 off it, or the top 2/3 off, and find my poem sitting somewhere in the middle. In this case, I wrote “Reclusion” exactly as it was in those eight lines and felt it was done. I published it here, and then went back to my working document to write something else. I found my mind wanted to keep playing with the lines and the words of “Reclusion,” though. I added two sections of diminishing length that used the same language from the first eight lines. I got up and walked away. I came back.  I slept on it. I tinkered with stuff in the basement and back yard. I came back inside. I read it again. I felt like this longer version is the actual poem. Although Melissa Crowe of Beloit Poetry Journal might laugh reading what I’m about to write, I don’t often think the longer version is better.  But in this case… I dunno… So, not to get in the way of the first published version, I will let that one stand on its own. But here’s a different look at “Reclusion.” Feel free to tell me where I should have stopped. Or, should I keep going?…

Reclusion

Give me three words then sleep.
Like three mountains I’ll have

To climb before you wake.
Or like time I’ll wear them down

To level with me in the hollow
Quandary time between dreams.

The heart like a quiet piano
In a room the moon doesn’t reach.

*

In a room the moon doesn’t reach
To level with me: in the three hollow

Words sleep climbed before I woke:
Or like the time you wore them, down

In the heart’s quiet piano, notes
Like three mountains I can still see.

*

In the hollow piano
In the room before I woke

The moon dreams of mountains

The six essentials for landscape painting, according to the sage, poorly translated without the benefit of the original [Summer Mountains 8]

 

The six essentials for landscape painting, according to the sage, poorly translated without the benefit of the original

The brush moves forward, seizing forms without hesitation
with the elegance of an unanswered prayer

The voice of the brushwork is like a breath
in the blackness nudging against the window screen

In the left third the closest mountain
signaling from a distance appears

The shadow of right action
Moving freely through the forms

But in the ink wash we see it for what it is
A pile of unanswered prayers

The master cracks the brush and rubs his eyes
There are not enough mountains for that

Mountains like [Summer Mountains 7]

Mountains like [Summer Mountains 7]

Mountains like sheets hanging on chairs
Mountains like a person sleeping under the bedspread

Mountains like broken bottles
Mountains like everything that hasn’t yet fallen

Crumbled fractured cracked given in
Mountains weeping rivers

Mountains like the accident of bears
Mountains like the unpolished mirror of clouds

Mountains afraid of the dark
Growing toward the sun

Mountains with a collapsed artery trapping the train
Mountains available for the press

Mountains the stitch across the wound
Mountains like a long German noun

Mountains impossible to name mountains
Banks of the rivers of air

Fable, July 20 [Summer Mountains 6]

Fable, July 20 [Summer Mountains 6]

Ten days before my father dies again.
It’s a long hike, but no matter

How slow I walk
I will get there on time

At the peak of grief.
Only then I’ll see a second

Spire of stone barely
Substantial through the cloud

Which I will realize
Is the true grief and this one

I have climbed is
A mountain’s memory.

Then will come a year
And another.

This is how the great
Mountain ranges are formed.

5. Detail of 4. [Summer Mountains 5]

5. Detail of 4.

(detail of Musicians riding on an elephant, 8th cent.)

Now in the dark of the tiger’s stripes
The words are full of mouths when will they close

Summer is inches away
Breathing against the glass.

The praying mantises have left the peony leaves
For the untrimmed plants by the porch

One brown mantis remains like a recluse
Behind him the sky pulls up the ground

The mail truck is tipped over the library tilts
Like one walking home from a bar

But inside the musician’s house next door
The plates hold their breath on the table

Still as a magician’s trick while afternoon
Striped shadows stalk the heart pine floors.

Musicians riding on an elephant [Summer Mountains 4]

 

4. Musicians riding on an elephant

8th century, painting on a biwa

The elephant looks back the way he came
He is not afraid of what’s coming

Silence of the elephant paused forever mid-step
In a landscape painting rendered on the face

Of a lute. Above them the four strings
Of the sky tell the story

Representation of the landscape based
On the look of the characters based on the

Look of the landscape

Mountain rising like a candle un-melting
Birds fly away toward the ghosts of

Mountains the host and two guests

Tiger Hunt [Summer Mountains 3]

Tiger Hunt detail.jpg

3. Tiger Hunt

8th century, painting on a biwa

Nothing left of the one by the river
But stripes and direction

The riders will rush by their bows
Blowing kisses to the future

Not seeing the shape they desire
It must be ahead ahead

Past where the 8th century lost
Its outlines past the thin brush

Strokes of history

The mountain on the left
Surges and twists dark double

Shadows almost like stripes

Sitting under a mountain [Summer Mountains 1]

summermountains1.jpg

Sitting under a mountain

Three peaks: the host and two guests.
A way to art where images were drawn

after the shape of words for things.
Let’s call the guests Shan and Mu.

They wandered twelve miles, their host
shrunk with each mile, even they grew

smaller till a human could climb them
without a rope. They got green, waited.

On the other side of the water two women
lay down together and the plague spread

its blanket over them. Their names were pulled
from their mouths by the one who found them

and carried on the shoulders of children
to the place where Shan and Mu sat,

leafy and waiting for their host to retrieve
them. The people planted the names

and in a few seasons the names grew
into the hills and out toward the sun

like a character for a tree, or a man
buried to his waist and left to die

for stealing someone’s name
and taking it so far from their bones.

And the mountains tried on their new names
and the sound of syllables and that it

took twice as long to say a dead woman’s
name as it used to take to measure

three mountains and that was good
and to this day nobody will build

a house on the summits or
cut down a tree at the crown.