Tag Archives: clouds

Spring morning in a small city

cloudcharacter

Spring morning in a small city

The day is squeezed through the city’s buildings
Like water through a whale’s baleen

Leaving people harmlessly stuck to offices and stairways
Pressed against a wall in a hallway or sitting at a cafe

Table on the sidewalk. I, too small to be a meal for time
and commerce, slip through, discarded, on the quiet street

With my coffee. The sky is the blue of a baby’s iris.
A baby as big as a galaxy who is far from forming

Thoughts cohesive enough to create a world.
The only clouds in the sky slip together

Over the street into a momentary shape, a character
in a language not native to me but familiar.

I watch it pull itself apart. The city places orange cones
Around me to protect me while I stare and take a picture.

When I get home I discover it is the Chinese character
For “write.” I sit down with some paper and a blue pen

But every word drifts in a different direction as soon
As I write it and the page is as firm and white

As the sclera of a baby’s eye, of a galaxy whose
Unformed thoughts are rolling inward. The city blinks and

Before anyone can take a picture the day smashes its tail
on the surface of afternoon and is gone into the depths.

Night [after and for Mei Yao-ch’en]

NIGHT

日從東溟轉, 夜向西海沉.

The unhurried day drizzles, turns
westward and sinks beneath the sea.

羣物各已息, 衆星燦然森.

All things hold their breath, the stars
just right, glorious like the forest.

蝦蟇將食月, 魑魅爭出陰.

The toad on the moon eats,
the demons strive to come out of the clouds.

阮籍獨不寐, 徘徊起彈琴.

The city dozed fitfully, alone, hesitated,
then rose and picked up its instrument.

 

*

[Note: This is a first draft of a work based on a poem of Mei Yao-ch’en (1002-1060), about whom I have written many poems on this blog. As with the previous poem I shared, this will likely change greatly from its current state to a final accurate version more worthy of being called a translation. The method I’m following is unusual but feels most natural for me — To write an impression of the poem gathered into my own poem in English, and then to continue to write a poem in English, and another, with the hope that each one gets closer and closer to my friend Sheng-yu’s poem in its traditional Chinese characters, till they are at least close enough to nod at each other or share a bottle of wine.  Chen Zhang, who is busy at Harvard finishing her dissertation while teaching as the Chinese Literary Preceptor up there in Cambridge, furnished me with the traditional characters for Mei’s  poem. I will keep you updated on any new versions. ]

Midwinter Dream Fragments

Midwinter Dream Fragments

 

A silent movie walks into a bar.
Far off to the east  fragments of cloud

hover in the foreground, closing credits. The clear blue sky
revolves behind them like a child’s picture lamp

before it catches on fire. But the sky does not move.

Only the clouds are moving, their vacancy signs
flashing as they pass the moon.

Early Morning Sky

Early Morning Sky

 

Underlit clouds reach across the new day’s ceiling
like a giant hand trying to trap something.

Or save someone. But I’m hidden beneath these trees
and houses. It goes on, drifts beyond, the wrong way.

Another Full Moon Night, Under Clouds

fullmoonwithclouds

Another Full Moon Night, Under Clouds

 

Weightless, local, essence of form but in no form
that keeps, these clouds block my view of the one

thing we can both look at tonight and know we share
the same world. It is not enough to know it’s there—

I must know that I see what you see. But if clouds,
empty of all illusion of form or permanence,

absorb their share of the moon’s glancing light
then maybe this love, shorn of time and setting

and shape, is equally bright and worthy
whether we see the moon or not

Mountains Poured Over Mountains

Mountains Poured Over Mountains

 

A cloud shadow crawls across the bare mountainside
touching every tree. Small clouds seep and spread

along the ground like water, large clouds drop
heavily like whole trees being painted suddenly black.

One, then another, backlit by the trees still in light.
Funny to think of something bigger than a mountain

pouring over a mountain, its own peaks in constant change
enveloping what seems so changeless

but is really two images in today’s mirror.
Funny to see how quickly it spreads then leaves,

like something huge suddenly not remembered.
Yet it was there. Pushed by the invisible hill of wind

And over on this peak the sign of an old inn groans
and the paper darkens beneath my pen.