Archive

Poetry

Nobody knows yet about my new house.
This spring I came here alone, quite by chance.
When I washed the pots, I discovered the spring water was hot;
When I read the sutras, I noticed how much time I had before evening.
Haze and clouds shut in my quiet door;
Fragrant grasses sprout outside my rough gate.
Pines and bamboo have found their own place;
Now in the woods and hills the snow begins to melt.

-Gensei (translation by Donald Keene)

(Gensei (1623-1668) was one of several poets in Seventeenth-century Japan maintaining traditions, antique even then, of Chinese poetry. This form is neither haiku nor waka, but kanshi. Since Chinese poetry never “led” anywhere, it can be overlooked in histories of Japanese literature, but was nonetheless important in its time.)

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

-Gerald Manley Hopkins

Where long ago a yellow crane bore a sage to heaven,
Nothing is left now but the Yellow Crane Terrace.
The yellow crane never revisited earth,
And white clouds are flying without him for ever.

Every tree in Hanyang becomes clear in the water,
And Parrot Island is a nest of sweet grasses;
But I look toward home, and twilight grows dark
With a mist of grief on the river waves.

-From the 300 Tang Poems

(a juxtagraph is a prose poetry form, best described as “a collage of facts.”)

OIL: A JUXTAGRAPH
-DW Twiddy

In 2018, the world produced thirty-six billion, seven hundred and eighty-eight million, three hundred and fifty thousand barrels of oil, or about one thousand, one hundred, and sixty-six barrels per second.

In 1975, Gulf Oil held a series of seminars to educate the Nigerian public on the benefits of the crude Gulf was lifting from that nation’s Delta Region. For comic relief, out came Mr. Emmanuel Omatshola’s Magic Barrel, a magician who produced an endless bounty from a steel drum: gasoline, kerosene, insecticides, nylon socks, rubber shoes, lipstick & rouge, paint for houses, cellophane to wrap fish and meat.

All humanity clusters around Mr. Omatshola’s barrel. We depend on its generous depths. No one knows where lies the barrel’s bottom.

Read More

Age makes monks of us all
Stripping away pleasure from pleasure
Turning our minds toward death and time
Doctors give discipline as abbots
No wine, no salt, no cheese, no oil
A liturgy of pills, taken by the Hours
So we watchfully approach our end
Let us keep at least our memories
Yet even they might be required from us
Lord, let thou thy servant depart in peace
Having endured thy salvation

(Another Doors-inspired piece from my college years)

I wandered through Père-Lachaise, looking for Morrison’s grave. I could tell I was getting closer, because I kept seeing the graffiti:

COME BACK JIM WE LOVE YOU

JIM WAS A JUNKIE

I wandered among the twisting French graves, hunted among them for he who was closest to me, chronologically if not also spiritually.

Jim?

Jim?

My thoughts echoed off the markers. I turned a corner, thinking the bust-adorned headstone might be there. I was wrong.

On a mausoleum wall stalked the white tiger. It was drawn in chalk with red stripes, livelier than any oil painting. It gazed at me hungrily, like a mad beggar, and I could not take my eyes away. The perspective was such it somehow looked distant rather than small. Part of me expected it to slowly grow larger, to come nearer. My eyes fell to what was below it.

There lay the artist, dead. A needle dangled from his left upper arm. His crazy smiling death mask bore an expression that screamed:

Happy are the dead. You will soon join me.

I stumbled my way out of the cemetery, desperately trying to escape from what I had seen.