What follows are three poems that somehow this week all gathered themselves around my feet, so many wind-blown leaves. They seem all to have the same tinge of color, or fragile tactility, or perhaps epistemology. Maybe, just maybe, the randomness of this gathering is the filter of the consciousness that attracted them or was attracted to them.
W. S. MerwinYour absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Self-Portrait in 2035
The root becomes him, the road ruts
That are sift and grain in the powderlight
Recast him, sink bone in him
Blanket and creep up, fine, fine:
Worm-waste and pillow tick; hair
Prickly and dust-dangled, his arms and black shoes
Unlinked and laceless, his face false
In the wood-rot, and past pause . . .
Darkness, erase these lines, forget these words.
Spider recite his one sin
Mountain Falling Flowers
RengetsuWe accept the graceful falling
Of mountain cherry blossoms,
But it is much harder for us
To fall away from our own
Attachment to this world.
translated by John Stevens
The Merwin was sent along by a friend who knows how much I cherish Merwins's most recent book, The Shadows of Sirius. It is the second time in recent weeks I've delved into China Trace, Charles Wright's early 1977 collection, prompted by his sensational recent volume, Sestets. The Rengetsu, which comes from the book Lotus Moon (recently republished by White Pine Press) was a library gifting from still another friend, who brought it to my attention. I, of course, snapped it up upon its return to said library.
I'm rich in friends as well as poetry.
Over the last month or so, I've been trying to find the time to write about a little collection of Kenneth Rexroth's entitled Sky Sea Birds Trees Earth House Beasts Flowers. I'll get there one of these days, along with perhaps an overview of Sestets, which I was so completely taken with that I returned the library copy I'd taken out and bought one of my own.
So why these poems?
With the Merwin poem, the first two lines seem commonplace, almost pedestrian, than he wacks you over the head with the iron skillet of a third line ... no, let me try that again. With the Merwin poem, the first two lines are commonplace, almost pedestrian, than he seduces you smoothly with a touch of warm breath behind the ear.
If the thread, pardon my borrowing, that binds these three works together is loss, it is Wright's poem that does the mixed-metaphoric slamming. What comes to mind for me is, when we speak of loss, can death be far behind? No, I think not. Death is the off stage character here, though in Wright's case maybe not so off stage as come and gone. Rengetsu's poem is another kind of seduction, reminding us of the first two Noble Truths and how very difficult they are to surmount.
All of this and not a haiku in sight! The Rengetsu is a waka, so that will do nicely as a distant cousin.
This week's poem from the Lilliput Review archive comes from #180. The poem, Earth-Poet, is by the wonderful Joseph Hutchinson, whose blog, "Perpetual Bird," keeps many a reader on their toes, lyrical or otherwise. Enjoy.
The ocean's susurrus....
In its sun-soaked pod the brain
ripens. The Earth-boat:
for a few breaths
we can feel it drifting.
no pissing on the moon
in the waves!
translated by David G. Lanoue
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