Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest I slept under rhododendron All night blossoms fell Shivering on a sheet of cardboard Feet stuck in my pack Hands deep in my pockets Barely able to sleep. I remembered when we were in school Sleeping together in a big warm bed We were the youngest lovers When we broke up we were still nineteen Now our friends are married You teach school back east I dont mind living this way Green hills the long blue beach But sometimes sleeping in the open I think back when I had you. A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji Eight years ago this May We walked under cherry blossoms At night in an orchard in Oregon. All that I wanted then Is forgotten now, but you. Here in the night In a garden of the old capital I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao I remember your cool body Naked under a summer cotton dress. An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji Last night watching the Pleiades, Breath smoking in the moonlight, Bitter memory like vomit Choked my throat. I unrolled a sleeping bag On mats on the porch Under thick autumn stars. In dream you appeared (Three times in nine years) Wild, cold, and accusing. I woke shamed and angry: The pointless wars of the heart. Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter. The first time I have Ever seen them close. December at Yase You said, that October, In the tall dry grass by the orchard When you chose to be free, "Again someday, maybe ten years." After college I saw you One time. You were strange. And I was obsessed with a plan. Now ten years and more have Gone by: I've always known where you were-- I might have gone to you Hoping to win your love back. You still are single. I didn't. I thought I must make it alone. I Have done that. Only in dream, like this dawn, Does the grave, awed intensity Of our young love Return to my mind, to my flesh. We had what the others All crave and seek for; We left it behind at nineteen. I feel ancient, as though I had Lived many lives. And may never now know If I am a fool Or have done what my karma demands.
From The Back Country, by Gary Snyder. Published by New Directions, copyright © 1968. Reprinted with permission.