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.
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.
(A juxtagraph is a prose poetry form, best described as “a mosaic of facts.”)
THE MBTA: A JUXTAGRAPH
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is the mass transit system serving Greater Boston. It includes light rail, trolleys, trackless trolleys, heavy rail, buses, and ferries. The T, as it is known, serves more than 200 communities. At the end of 2017 the system carried 1.7 million passengers, about twice the population of the city of Boston proper, each day.
Between 1996 and 1999, every workday, I rode the Green Line B Train from Grigg Street, near Boston College, to Lechmere, almost its entire length, an hour each way. I read my newspaper, fell asleep, ate my lunch. The trolley became my living room, a second home.
Every day is another day I could post more Chinese poetry on this blog.
Yuan Danqiu loves celestial beings
At dawn drinks from the clear flows of the Ying River
Returns at sunset, purple and sacred mists within the mountains and hills
Thirty-six peaks circle all around
Long time in their spiral, I follow the rainbows and stars
Riding upon a flying dragon, wind sounds in my ears
Across the river, astride the ocean, connected to heaven
I know how to travel with heart-mind to the outer edge of Infinity.
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
It is Lent.
The lobster’s eating yogurt
He eats it with his claws
He finds it very difficult
To get it in his jaws
The lobster loves his yogurt
It’s worth the strife, you see
The creamy taste reminds him of
The foaming briny sea
I would still see more
Yet the shy coquettish moon
does absent itself?
How I wish the mountainside
could draw across its curtain!
-“Tales of Ise,” Dan LXXXII