Tag Archives: impermanence

Inside Outside

Inside Outside

In my son’s room at dusk a firefly floats to the ceiling
I know outside they are rising to the thick canopy

in the backyard where even the night barely gets through
When I walk out the fireflies are re-arranging the constellations

as if they are not sure what shapes to believe in
Here I am at fifty recognizing no shapes of belief but noticing

the vectors of illumination   There are crickets
in the high grass near the fence I haven’t had the heart

to cut back in this yard I will not see next spring

I Take a Picture of An Icicle Hanging from My House’s Gutter And Even Though the Icicle Drops Seconds Later I Write the Following Poem Composed in One-Line Stanzas I Am Not Prepared to Defend With Any Theory but Insist You Take Seriously For The Moment As If I Really Do Know Why I Did It That Way

frozen moment

I Take a Picture of An Icicle Hanging from My House’s Gutter And Even Though the Icicle Drops Seconds Later I Write the Following Poem Composed in One-Line Stanzas I Am Not Prepared to Defend With Any Theory but Insist You Take Seriously For The Moment As If I Really Do Know Why I Did It That Way

Icicle depending from the gutter and clarity of tree shadow on a snowy roof

Sky the blue of belief though nothing to hold on to

Like us the icicle hanging on lengthened by what’s leaving its way

Beneath it five drops of water like a memory are frozen in time

No telling what is still and what is moving

In your memory like a memory that drop will never change

In an image all about movement nothing will move

The icicle’s shape never seen before never again when I turn again

It has dropped from the gutter like it was never there the blue sky showing no surprise

The shadow of the maple’s high branches on the snowy roof

Conditions Being What They Are

Conditions Being What They Are


Warm March morning. The sky dropped a foot
of snow on us a week ago and now it rises

in the warm air as fog in the hollows and foothills
disappear as I drive through it. Tonight it’s coming

back down as rain which will be snow before it ends
and I’ll be bending my back to shovel it away

from my car. Three times I will have passed through
it in a week, this same stuff, reconfigured, recycled.

When they buried my uncle a few days ago I knew
if there is a soul it’s like this snow, form a phase only

with respect to specific conditions and maybe
for all that, still surviving, no memory, none,

recognition only a scent like snow before it snows.

After the Black Crow Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines


Artwork by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner


Note: This poem is not a translation but was created by free-associating with the traditional Chinese characters found one of Mei Yao-ch'en's last poems, written over 960 years ago. What's below is more a round of poetic archaeology--like digging up the characters that made up the poem but not knowing how they fit together, and piecing together something entirely different from them. I hope to actually translate this poem properly one day soon, but thought I would share this curious first stage of the work with you. ----JS

After The Black Spirit Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines

Dark winged spirit, in the olden days even I had compassion for you! I’d tell folks
who’d just as soon spit on you and curse you if fate came their way on your wings

that Oh! the hour could not contain you, you’d overturn your own nest to shoot out
like sound from a plucked string, even to banishment from your old landlord, time.

Well, the history books are wrong! And here you are, stranded as well, so do not be so quick to reproach these days, too, which the master apprehends, like a bullet flicked across the mind,

a thought just passing, now detached. Sure, you can eat till you’re plump in Taicang,
buy a new nest in Kaoshu township, daybreak’s rooster’s not crying for you,

hundreds of birds will argue who can admire it best
but you cannot approach that phoenix, that emperor, or peep down into its celestial fire.

At this moment, to no avail across the warp of the sky your spirit flies north and south—
Its shadow falls on the cunning rabbit but cannot peck its eyes, or separate the thief from his base.

It’s more complex now that I’m dead, detesting the person with noble aspirations is not the same as becoming fond of this tiny bird that’s come around. I know I’m not either kind,

contrary to who I am, as if I flourished in the Qin or Han dynasties, brave and chivalrous!
Want some advice? Distance yourself from your reputation, Crow. I’ll just carry on on foot. I’ve got

something final to look after.

The Morning After the Ice Storm On the Day After the Snow Storm

My children walk on the foot-high snow leaving no prints
I remember doing that the feeling of not falling through

of being lighter than snow I remember the days I was sure
I would never leave any prints that I could walk

on the surface of the world and leave no trace
then are the days where you feel you are nothing but prints

Nothing but traces and paths and trails and then the days
you wake up to another death and your son

is reading how it took two hundred million years
for trees to develop leaves and

then you are back to leaving no prints

Taking the Dogs Out One Night After a Snowstorm



Taking the Dogs Out One Night After a Snowstorm

The dogs a brown blur against blinding
white barely visible ridges and striations

Patterns of falling and wind-riddance
the shapeless back yard a single unique

print of the storm’s finger but nothing
weighing in as evidence more so

than my daughter’s bright red jacket
so lively against this erasure

like my love for that life and
everything that came before it

and the blue of the twilight
and the black of what follows