Conversations (XIX) — to the new year’s messages
The messages gathered overnight
In the tree outside my bedroom
Then woke me up before I knew I was
Hearing them. Fill my branches with birds,
With the starlings of your thought.
I will see that they are well fed, and my house
Shelters them from the worst of the winter
Wind. I will come outside to them
And stand in the bracing cold,
Resolute, and watch the new day.
Dream, First Full Night of the Year
I am one of four men entrusted with delivering refugees
from a disputed territory. The road lays over bare hills and open
fields. Everyone carries only what they need. I carry
their memories, so I can only take half a step at a time.
When the first bomb explodes by the roadside, the others
are already far ahead of me. The memories are important
but sometimes you have to outrun memories to escape.
I am cresting a hill, beyond it are more hills and small fires
where the bombs have landed. Gunfire bounces off the road
nearby and I break from the path, dropping nothing,
staying low. Somewhere there have to be trees, undergrowth,
a forest, where I can escape the ground.
Last Night of the Year, 955 Years After Mei Yao-ch’en’s Death
I tie my hiking boots tight before I step outside to watch the year fall.
I am not afraid I will float away on Star River; my heart is 400 miles
upstream already. My family scattered. Just the cats and dogs here
to nibble water crackers with. Any year’s last hours are crumbs on a plate,
forgotten on the kitchen counter. For once I wish to be in a crowd
in a loud living room, my heartbeat adding to the temporary chatter.
Walk out with me, old friend. There will be snow in the year’s first hour
at the head of the trail, and I cannot finish this wine alone.