Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]

- 1935-
19

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border's railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
                                                    late May, gnat-floating evening.

Is love stronger than unlove?
                                         Only the unloved know.
And the mockingbird, whose heart is cloned and colorless.

And who's this tiny chirper,
                         lost in the loose leaves of the weeping cherry tree?
His song is not more than three feet off the ground, and singular,
And going nowhere.
Listen. It sounds a lot like you, hermano.
                                                           It sounds like me.

Body and Soul II

(for Coleman Hawkins)

The structure of landscape is infinitesimal,
Like the structure of music,
                            seamless, invisible.
Even the rain has larger sutures.
What holds the landscape together, and what holds music together,
Is faith, it appears—faith of the eye, faith of the ear.
Nothing like that in language,
However, clouds chugging from west to east like blossoms
Blown by the wind.
                 April, and anything's possible.

Here is the story of Hsuan Tsang.
A Buddhist monk, he went from Xian to southern India
And back—on horseback, on camel-back, on elephant-back, and on 
                                                               foot.
Ten thousand miles it took him, from 629 to 645, 
Mountains and deserts, 
In search of the Truth,
                    the heart of the heart of Reality,
The Law that would help him escape it,
And all its attendant and inescapable suffering.
                                               And he found it.

These days, I look at things, not through them,
And sit down low, as far away from the sky as I can get.
The reef of the weeping cherry flourishes coral,
The neighbor's back porch light bulbs glow like anemones.
Squid-eyed Venus floats forth overhead.
This is the half hour, half-light, half-dark,
                            when everything starts to shine out,
And aphorisms skulk in the trees,
Their wings folded, their heads bowed.

Every true poem is a spark,
              and aspires to the condition of the original fire
Arising out of the emptiness.
It is that same emptiness it wants to reignite.
It is that same engendering it wants to be re-engendered by.
Shooting stars.
April's identical,
             celestial, wordless, burning down.
Its light is the light we commune by.
Its destination's our own, its hope is the hope we live with.

Wang Wei, on the other hand, 
Before he was 30 years old bought his famous estate on the Wang River 
Just east of the east end of the Southern Mountains,
                                                     and lived there,
Off and on, for the rest of his life.
He never travelled the landscape, but stayed inside it,
A part of nature himself, he thought.
And who would say no
To someone so bound up in solitude,
                           in failure, he thought, and suffering.

Afternoon sky the color of Cream of Wheat, a small 
Dollop of butter hazily at the western edge.
Getting too old and lazy to write poems,
                                      I watch the snowfall
From the apple trees.
Landscape, as Wang Wei says, softens the sharp edges of isolation.

Words and the Diminution of All Things


The brief secrets are still here,
                            and the light has come back. 
The word remember touches my hand,
But I shake it off and watch the turkey buzzards bank and wheel
Against the occluded sky.
All of the little names sink down,
                            weighted with what is invisible,
But no one will utter them, no one will smooth their rumpled hair. 

There isn't much time, in any case.
There isn't much left to talk about
                            as the year deflates.
There isn't a lot to add.
Road-worn, December-colored, they cluster like unattractive angels
Wherever a thing appears,
Crisp and unspoken, unspeakable
                            in their mute and glittering garb.

All afternoon the clouds have been sliding toward us
                                      out of the
      Blue Ridge.
All afternoon the leaves have scuttled
Across the sidewalk and driveway, clicking their clattery claws.
And now the evening is over us,
Small slices of silence
                  running under a dark rain,
Wrapped in a larger.