PUIs- 20th century poets under the influence

Some 20th century American poetry under the influence of, harmonizing with, in the spirit of, speaking to… Chinese poetry.


Something I’ve Not Done

W.S. Merwin

Something I’ve not done
is following me
I haven’t done it again and again
so it has many footsteps
Like a drums
tick that’s grown old and never been used

In late afternoon I hear it come close
at times it climbs out of a sea
on to my shoulders
and I shrug it of
f?losing one more chance

Every morning
it’s drunk up part of my breath for the day
and knows which way ?I’m going
and already
it’s not done there

But once more I say I’ll lay hands on it
and add its footsteps to my heart
and its story to my regrets
and its silence to my compass


A Message to Po Chu-I

W.S. Merwin

In that tenth winter of your exile
the cold never letting go of you
and your hunger aching inside you
day and night while you heard the voices
out of the starving mouths around you
old ones and infants and animals
those curtains of bones swaying on stilts
and you heard the faint cries of the birds
searching in the frozen mud for something
to swallow and you watched the migrants
trapped in the cold the great geese growing
weaker by the day until their wings
could barely lift them above the ground
so that a gang of boys could catch one
in a net and drag him to market
to be cooked and it was then that you
saw him in his own exile and you
paid for him and kept him until he
could fly again and you let him go
but then where could he go in the world
of your time with its wars everywhere
and the soldiers hungry the fires lit
the knives out twelve hundred years ago

I have been wanting to let you know
the goose is well he is here with me
you would recognize the old migrant
he has been with me for a long time
and is in no hurry to leave here
the wars are bigger now than ever
greed has reached numbers that you would not
believe and I will not tell you what
is done to geese before they kill them
now we are melting the very poles
of the earth but I have never known
where he would go after he leaves me.


Winter Song

Caroline Kizer

So I go on, tediously on and on…
We are separated, finally, not by death but life.
We cling to the dead, but the living break away.

On my birthday, the waxwings arrive in the garden,
Strip the trees bare as my barren heart.
I put out suet and bread for December birds:
Hung from evergreen branches, greasy gray
Ornaments for the rites of the winter solstice.

How can you and I meet face to face
After our triumphant love?
After our failure?

Since this isolation, it is always cold.
My clothes don’t fit. My hair refuses to obey.
And, for the first time, I permit
These little anarchies of flesh and object.
Together, they flick me toward some final defeat.

Thinking of you, I am suddenly old…
A mute spectator as the months wind by.
I have tried to put you out of my mind forever.

Home isn’t here. It went away with you,?
Disappearing in the space of a breath,
In the time one takes to open a foreknown letter.
My fists are bruised from beating on the ground.
There are clouds between me and the watery light.

Truly, I try to flourish, to find pleasure?
Without an endless reference to you?

Who made the days and years seem worth enduring.


Night Sounds

based on themes in the Tzu Yeh
Caroline Kizer

The moonlight on my bed keeps me awake;
Living alone now, aware of the voices of evening,
A child weeping at nightmares, the faint love-cries of a woman,
Everything tinged by terror or nostalgia.

No heavy, impassive back to nudge with one foot
While coaxing, “Wake up and hold me,
”?When the moon’s creamy beauty is transformed
Into a map of impersonal desolation.

But, restless in this mock dawn of moonlight.
That so chills the spirit, I alter our history:
You were never able to lie quite peacefully at my side,
Not the night through. Always withholding something.

Awake before morning, restless and uneasy,
Trying not to disturb me, you would leave my bed
While I lay there rigidly, feigning sleep.
Still – the night was nearly over, the light not as cold
As a full cup of moonlight.

And there were the lovely times when, to the skies’ cold No?
You cried to me, Yes! Impaled me with affirmation.
Now, when I call out in fear, not in love, there is no answer.
Nothing speaks in the dark but the distant voices,
A child with the moon on his face, a dog’s hollow cadence.

 This Is Just to Say

William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


To the shade of Po Chu-I

William Carlos Williams

The work is heavy. I see
bare branches laden with snow.
I try to comfort myself
with thought of your old age.
A girl passes, in a red tam,
the coat above her quick ankles
snow smeared from running and falling –
Of what shall I think now
save of death the bright dancer?


To Lu Chi (excerpt)

Howard Nemerov

Through many centuries of dust, to which
We both belong, your quiet voice is clear
About the difficulties and delights
Of writing well, which are, it seems, always
The same and generally unfashionable.
In all the many times I have read your poem,
Or treatise, where the art of letters turns
To the inspection of itself—the theme
(I take your phrase) of how to hold the axe
To make its handle—your words have not failed
To move me with their justice and their strength,
Their manner gentle as their substance is
Fastidious and severe. You frighten me
When you describe the dangers of our course,
And then you bring, by precept and example,
Assurance that a reach of mastery,
Some still, reed-hidden and reflective stream
Where the heron fishes in his own image,
Always exists.



Regarding Wave

Gary Snyder

The voice of the Dharma
the voice

A shimmering bell
through all.

Every hill,    still.
Every tree alive. Every leaf.
All the slopes  flow.
old woods, new seedlings,
tall grasses plumes.

Dark hollows;  peaks of light.
wind stirs    the cool side
Each leaf living.
All the hills.

The Voice
is a wife

him still


After Work

Gary Snyder

The shack and a few trees
float in the blowing fog

I pull out your blouse,
warm my cold hands
on your breasts.
you laugh and shudder
peeling garlic by the
hot iron stove.
bring in the axe, the rake,
the wood

we’ll lean on the wall
against each other
stew simmering on the fire
as it grows dark
drinking wine.

Pine tree tops
Gary Snyder

In the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
The creak of boots.
Rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.



The Orchid Flower

Sam Hamill

Just as I wonder
whether it’s going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can’t explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure

comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it’s
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.
Erotic because there’s death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.

The Thin Edge of Your Pride

Kennth Rexroth


Six months as timeless as dream,
As impotent . . .
You pause on the subway stairs,
Wave and smile and descend.
Was it an instant between waking
And waking,
That you smile and wave again,
Two blocks away on a smoky
Chicago boulevard?
How many dynasties decayed
Meanwhile, how many
Times did the second hand
Circumvent its dial?



Indigenes of furnished rooms,
Our best hours have been passed
At the taxpayers’ expense
In the public parks of four cities.
It could be worse, the level
Well-nurtured lawns, the uplifted
Rhythmic arms of children,
A bright red ball following
A graph of laughter,
The dresses of the little girls
Blossoming like hyacinths
In early August, the fountains,
The tame squirrels, pigeons
And sparrows, and other
Infinitely memorable things.


Kenneth Rexroth

I pass your home in a slow vermilion dawn,
The blinds are drawn, and the windows are open.
The soft breeze from the lake
Is like your breath upon my cheek.
All day long I walk in the intermittent rainfall.
I pick a vermilion tulip in the deserted park,
Bright raindrops cling to its petals.
At five o’clock it is a lonely color in the city.
I pass your home in a rainy evening,
I can see you faintly, moving between lighted walls.
Late at night I sit before a white sheet of paper,
Until a fallen vermilion petal quivers before me.


On What Planet

Kenneth Rexroth

Uniformly over the whole countryside
The warm air flows imperceptibly seaward;
The autumn haze drifts in deep bands
Over the pale water;
White egrets stand in the blue marshes;
Tamalpais, Diablo, St. Helena
Float in the air.
Climbing on the cliffs of Hunter’s Hill
We look out over fifty miles of sinuous
Interpenetration of mountains and sea.

Leading up a twisted chimney,
Just as my eyes rise to the level
Of a small cave, two white owls
Fly out, silent, close to my face.
They hover, confused in the sunlight,
And disappear into the recesses of the cliff.

All day I have been watching a new climber,
A young girl with ash blonde hair
And gentle confident eyes.
She climbs slowly, precisely,
With unwasted grace.

While I am coiling the ropes,
Watching the spectacular sunset,
She turns to me and says, quietly,
“It must be very beautiful, the sunset,
On Saturn, with the rings and all the moons.”


Eleven Dawns with Su Tung-p’o

Jim Harrison


?Late in life I’ve lost my country.
Everywhere there is the malice of unearned
power, top to bottom, bottom to top,
nearly solid scum. Very few can read or write.
Lucky for me we winter in this bamboo thicket
near a creek with three barrels of bird food.
With first light things seem a little better.


Don’t probe your brain’s sore tooth in the dark.
Let your mind drift to the mountains
where migrants are doubtless freezing
on the coldest night of the year. The dogs
found a nest beneath the roots of a big sycamore
tipped over in July’s flood. The ashes of a tiny fire,
an empty water bottle, a pop-top can of beans
scorched by the coals. These dangerous people
whom we’re being taught to hate like the Arabs.


Braided Creek (excerpts)

Jim Harrison

Only today
I heard
the river
within the river.
An empty boat
will volunteer for anything.
I have used up more than
20,000 days waiting to see
what the next would bring.
Today a pink rose in a vase
on the table.
Tomorrow petals.


A Letter from Li Po

Conrad Aiken

Fanfare of northwest wind, a bluejay wind
announces autumn, and the equinox
rolls back blue bays to a far afternoon.
Somewhere beyond the Gorge Li Po is gone,
looking for friendship or an old love’s sleeve
or writing letters to his children, lost,
and to his children’s children, and to us.
What was his light? of lamp or moon or sun?
Say that it changed, for better or for worse,
sifted by leaves, sifted by snow; on mulberry silk
a slant of witch-light; on the pure text
a slant of genius; emptying mind and heart
for winecups and more winecups and more words.
What was his time? Say that it was a change,
but constant as a changing thing may be,
from chicory’s moon-dark blue down the taut scale
to chicory’s tenderest pink, in a pink field
such as imagination dreams of thought.
But of the heart beneath the winecup moon
the tears that fell beneath the winecup moon
for children lost, lost lovers, and lost friends,
what can we say but that it never ends?
Even for us it never ends, only begins.
Yet to spell down the poem on her page,
margining her phrases, parsing forth
the sevenfold prism of meaning, up the scale
from chicory pink to blue, is to assume
Li Po himself: as he before assumed
the poets and the sages who were his.
Like him, we too have eaten of the word:
with him are somewhere lost beyond the Gorge:
and write, in rain, a letter to lost children,
a letter long as time and brief as love.


Canto XLIX: For the Seven Lakes

Ezra Pound

For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses:
Rain; empty river; a voyage,
Fire from frozen cloud, heavy rain in the twilight
Under the cabin roof was one lantern.
The reeds are heavy; bent;
and the bamboos speak as if weeping.

Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes
against sunset
Evening is like a curtain of cloud,
a blurr above ripples; and through it
sharp long spikes of the cinnamon,
a cold tune amid reeds.
Behind hill the monk’s bell
borne on the wind.
Sail passed here in April; may return in October
Boat fades in silver; slowly;
Sun blaze alone on the river.

??Where wine flag catches the sunset
Sparse chimneys smoke in the cross light

Comes then snow scur on the river
And a world is covered with jade
Small boat floats like a lanthorn,
The flowing water closts as with cold. And at San Yin
they are a people of leisure.

?Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar,
Clouds gather about the hole of the window
Broad water; geese line out with the autumn
Rooks clatter over the fishermen’s lanthorns,

A light moves on the north sky line;
where the young boys prod stones for shrimp.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes.
A light moves on the South sky line.

State by creating riches shd. thereby get into debt?
This is infamy; this is Geryon.
This canal goes still to TenShi
Though the old king built it for pleasure

 Sun up; work
sundown; to rest
dig well and drink of the water
dig field; eat of the grain
Imperial power is? and to us what is it?

The fourth; the dimension of stillness.
And the power over wild beasts.


Six Significant Landscapes

Wallace Stevens

An old man sits
In the shadow of a pine tree
In China.
He sees larkspur,
Blue and white,
At the edge of the shadow,
Move in the wind.
His beard moves in the wind.
The pine tree moves in the wind.
Thus water flows?Over weeds.

The night is of the colour
Of a woman’s arm:
Night, the female,
Obscure,?Fragrant and supple,
Conceals herself.
A pool shines,
Like a bracelet
Shaken in a dance.

I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.

When my dream was near the moon,
The white folds of its gown
Filled with yellow light.
The soles of its feet
Grew red.?Its hair filled
With certain blue crystallizations
From stars,?Not far off.

Not all the knives of the lamp-posts,
Nor the chisels of the long streets,
Nor the mallets of the domes
And high towers,
Can carve
What one star can carve,
Shining through the grape-leaves.

Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses —
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon —
Rationalists would wear sombreros.

In an Instant

David Budbill

The place where I
stopped last night
is far away today.

will be last night.

In an instant,
the present
is the past.

I was a kid
just yesterday, today
I’m an old man.


After Li Yi

David Budbill

Everything fades away.
The grass is brown.

My head is bald.
What hair is left is gray.

My youth is gone.
The end of life is in the mirror.


Harmonizing with Tu Fu’s “Written on the Wall at Chang’s Hermitage”

David Budbill

It is fall here now in the mountains. The air is crisp and bright.
Time for cutting wood. First the chainsaw’s whine, then the
splitting hammer’s fall, the clunk of blocks of wood coming apart.

I pause from my labors, wipe the sweat from my face,
and look down the hill to my late garden and then across
the valley to the yellow side of Judevine Mountain.

I am alone here today and I want to be alone. To cut, split,
and stack firewood, to eat simple food I myself have grown,
to work with pen and paper or at my computer making poems,

to sit in the evening and listen to the silence of
these mountains: these simple things, the warmth of friends, and love – the touch
of another – are all I’ve ever wanted. All else is distraction.


As I Step Over A Puddle At The End Of Winter, I Think Of An Ancient Chinese Governor

James Wright

And how can I, born in evil days
And fresh from failure, ask a kindness of Fate?
— Written A.D. 819

Po Chu-i, balding old politician,
What’s the use?
I think of you,
Uneasily entering the gorges of the Yang-Tze,
When you were being towed up the rapids
Toward some political job or other
In the city of Chungshou.
You made it, I guess,
By dark.

But it is 1960, it is almost spring again,
And the tall rocks of Minneapolis
Build me my own black twilight
Of bamboo ropes and waters.
Where is Yuan Chen, the friend you loved?
Where is the sea, that once solved the whole loneliness
Of the Midwest?Where is Minneapolis? I can see nothing
But the great terrible oak tree darkening with winter.
Did you find the city of isolated men beyond mountains?
Or have you been holding the end of a frayed rope
For a thousand years?


After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard

Charles Wright

East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
I flit from one thing to the next

What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
up from the damp grass.
Into the world’s tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.

After Shen Zhou

Frederick Morgan

A single chime of jade across the waters

as along this rocky shore the moment expands
and somewhere within it is hidden a dwelling apart
to which only the absolute ones make good their escape.

The Way seems not to exist (so the master taught)
and yet it is there—and springtime returns once more,
ageless and unreclaimed, to the inner lands.
What purity! The peach trees are in blossom,
birds chirp and stir, and there by the narrow stream
two white-robed figures wait to greet my crossing…

Shall I not make my move at last, and join them?


The Old Poets of China

Mary Oliver

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.


Li Po and the Moon

Mary Oliver

There is the story of the old Chinese poet:
At night in his boat he went drinking and dreaming
And singing

Then drowned as he reached for the moon’s reflection.
Well, probably each of us, at some time, has been
As desperate.

Not the moon, though.


Some Heron

Mary Oliver

A blue preacher flew
toward the swamp,
in slow motion.

On the leafy banks,
an old Chinese poet,
hunched in the white gown of his wings,

was waiting.
The water
was the kind of dark silk

that has silver lines
shot through it
when it is touched by the wind

or is splashed upward,
in a small, quick flower,
by the life beneath it.

The preacher
made his difficult landing,
his skirts up around his knees.

The poet’s eyes
flared, just as a poet’s eyes
are said to do

when the poet is awakened
from the forest of meditation.
It was summer.

It was only a few moment’s past the sun’s rising,
which meant that the whole long sweet day
lay before them.

They greeted each other,
rumpling their gowns for an instant,
and then smoothing them.

They entered the water,
and instantly two more herons–
equally as beautiful–

joined them and stood just beneath them
in the black, polished water
where they fished, all day.

Wichita Vortex Sutra: I’m an Old Man Now, And a Lonesome Man in Kans
Allen Ginsberg

I’m an old man now, and a lonesome man in Kansas
but not afraid
to speak my lonesomeness in a car,
because not only my lonesomeness
it’s Ours, all over America,
O tender fellows–
& spoken lonesomeness is Prophecy
in the moon 100 years ago or in
the middle of Kansas now.
It’s not the vast plains mute our mouths
that fill at midnite with ecstatic language
when our trembling bodies hold each other
breast to breast on a matress–
Not the empty sky that hides
the feeling from our faces
nor our skirts and trousers that conceal
the bodylove emanating in a glow of beloved skin,
white smooth abdomen down to the hair
between our legs,
It’s not a God that bore us that forbid
our Being, like a sunny rose
all red with naked joy
between our eyes & bellies, yes
All we do is for this frightened thing
we call Love, want and lack–
fear that we aren’t the one whose body could be
beloved of all the brides of Kansas City,
kissed all over by every boy of Wichita–
O but how many in their solitude weep aloud like me–
On the bridge over the Republican River
almost in tears to know
how to speak the right language–
on the frosty broad road
uphill between highway embankments
I search for the language
that is also yours–
almost all our language has been taxed by war.
Radio antennae high tension
wires ranging from Junction City across the plains–
highway cloverleaf sunk in a vast meadow
lanes curving past Abilene
to Denver filled with old
heroes of love–
to Wichita where McClure’s mind
burst into animal beauty
drunk, getting laid in a car
in a neon misted street
15 years ago–
to Independence where the old man’s still alive
who loosed the bomb that’s slaved all human consciousness
and made the body universe a place of fear–
Now, speeding along the empty plain,
no giant demon machine
visible on the horizon
but tiny human trees and wooden houses at the sky’s edge
I claim my birthright!
reborn forever as long as Man
in Kansas or other universe–Joy
reborn after the vast sadness of War Gods!
A lone man talking to myself, no house in the brown vastness to hear,
imaging the throng of Selves
that make this nation one body of Prophecy
languaged by Declaration as
I call all Powers of imagination
to my side in this auto to make Prophecy,
all Lords
of human kingdoms to come
Shambu Bharti Baba naked covered with ash
Khaki Baba fat-bellied mad with the dogs
Dehorahava Baba who moans Oh how wounded, How wounded
Sitaram Onkar Das Thakur who commands
give up your desire
Satyananda who raises two thumbs in tranquility
Kali Pada Guha Roy whose yoga drops before the void
Shivananda who touches the breast and says OM
Srimata Krishnaji of Brindaban who says take for your guru
William Blake the invisible father of English visions
Sri Ramakrishna master of ecstasy eyes
half closed who only cries for his mother
Chaitanya arms upraised singing & dancing his own praise
merciful Chango judging our bodies
Durga-Ma covered with blood
destroyer of battlefield illusions
million-faced Tathagata gone past suffering
Preserver Harekrishna returning in the age of pain
Sacred Heart my Christ acceptable
Allah the Compassionate One
Jahweh Righteous One
all Knowledge-Princes of Earth-man, all
ancient Seraphim of heavenly Desire, Devas, yogis
& holymen I chant to–
Come to my lone presence
into this Vortex named Kansas,
I lift my voice aloud,
make Mantra of American language now,
I here declare the end of the War!
Ancient days’ Illusion!
and pronounce words beginning my own millennium.
Let the States tremble,
let the Nation weep,
let Congress legislate it own delight
let the President execute his own desire–
this Act done by my own voice,
nameless Mystery–
published to my own senses,
blissfully received by my own form
approved with pleasure by my sensations
manifestation of my very thought
accomplished in my own imagination
all realms within my consciousness fulfilled
60 miles from Wichita
near El Dorado,
The Golden One,
in chill earthly mist
houseless brown farmland plains rolling heavenward
in every direction
one midwinter afternoon Sunday called the day of the Lord–
Pure Spring Water gathered in one tower
where Florence is
set on a hill,
stop for tea & gas

Pacific Rim: Summer Solstice

Gary Gach

The smell of oranges rotting by P’ing Yuen; A dog stands in the middle of Pacific Street At twilight,
nibbling on its tail.

“ ‘Forgotten childhood images get recalled in Spring,’ Because there are seasons,” Lisa
told me this Winter. “I never knew before what Spring is
About,” Maria told me this Spring.

Now all, all that you are & this is, is.
“Not yet,” staring straight ahead the mother
To her three-year-old daughter’s “Is it dark yet?”

Gypsy children sell flowers as a street musician warms up his
Bagpipes. Along the shore of the bay a child turns cartwheels on the sand
In a pastel pink bathing suit. The sun slowly goes down through pine needles.



Meditation on the Wen Fu

Eleanor Wilner

. . .  And, as to the heavenly arrow
of which Lu Chi speaks — it must have struck
straight down, deep into stone, into the heart
of granite.  Strange, then,
what wells up, what pours forth in a flood,
should be both clear and bright
as water, heavy and dark as blood;
that stone be wounded into speech
and that such wounds should heal us.


A Late Spring Day in My Life

Robert Bly

A silence hovers over the earth:
The grass lifts lightly in the heat
Like the ancient wing of a bird.
A horse gazes steadily at me.


After Drinking All Night with a Friend, We Go Out in a Boat at Dawn to See Who Can Write the Best Poem

Robert Bly

These pines, these fall oaks, these rocks,
This water dark and touched by wind—
I am like you, you dark boat,
Drifting over water fed by cool springs.

Beneath the waters, since I was a boy,
I have dreamt of strange and dark treasures,
Not of gold, or strange stones, but the true
Gift, beneath the pale lakes of Minnesota.

This morning also, drifting in the dawn wind,
I sense my hands, and my shoes, and this ink—
Drifting, as all of this body drifts,
Above the clouds of the flesh and the stone.

A few friendships, a few dawns, a few glimpses of grass,
A few oars weathered by the snow and the heat,
So we drift toward shore, over cold waters,
No longer caring if we drift or go straight.



Arthur Sze

Opening the screen door, you find a fat spider
poised at the threshold. When I swat it,

hundreds of tiny crawling spiders burst out.
What space in the mind bursts into waves

of wriggling light? As we round a bend,
a gibbous moon burnishes lava rocks and waves.

A wild boar steps into the road, and around
another bend, a mongoose darts across our headlights.

As spokes to a hub, the very far converges
to the very near. A row of Siberian irises

buds and blooms in the yard behind our bedroom.
A moth flutters against a screen and sets

off a light. I had no idea carded wool spun
into yarn could be dipped and oxidized into bliss.

Once, hunting for chanterelles in a meadow,
I flushed quail out of the brush. Now

you step on an unexpected earthstar, and it
bursts in a cloud of brown spores into June light.



Cid Corman

At day’s end
child asleep
in his arms

he steps light —
her bonnet
on his head.



Cid Corman

rain stops
night knows when
to listen

what falls
glistens now
in the ear



Cid Corman

Tea in the green fields
served by a monk, green
tea, all that he has.

Through the light thatched roof
the sky gets in and
at the edges more.

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

Philip Whalen

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly question
A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the
margin of a quick splashed picture –
bug, leaf, caricature of Teacher
on paper held together now by little more
than ink & their own strength brushed
momentarily over it
Their world & several others since
Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it –
Cheered as it whizzed by –
& conked out among the busted spring rain
Cherryblossom winejars
Happy to have saved us all.


Complaint: To the Muse

Philip Whalen

You do understand I’ve waited long enough
There’s nobody else that interests me more than a minute
I’ve got no more ambition to shop around for poems or love
Come Back!
or at least answer your telephone
I’m nowhere without you

This is the greatest possible drag
Slower than the speed of light or always
A little less than critical mass

The energy the steam the poop is here
Everything is (by Nature) Energy, I myself
A natural thing & certainly massive enough

A block of lead (the end of all radiation)
I don’t even reflect much daylight, not to speak of
glowing in the dark
I’ll never get it off the ground


Poems from Hut Poems

Jonathan Greene


How we become dust –

Some beetles dead
on the walls of my hut.

A Buddha full lotus
in a cave.

Ignorant dust,
Enlightened dust?

The earth accepts both
without judgment.


At my hut
poems must be waiting for me

and my other being –
ghost to my normal busybody self –

sitting calmly there
siphoning songs from the still air.


There is one bent nail
hammered flush into
the door’s molding –

speaks volumes,
the frustrations (that day)
of one carpenter.


Hiking this steep hill in snow,
of course a kinship
hearing the trees creak & moan
in the wind.

Czeslaw Milosz

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early. I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over the honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw blue sea and sails.


an instance of being

Pell Tanner

my one
at once
from ten thousand things
any time
any where

pears grow heavy
queen anne’ white lace
Grows tall
trails of fire
into headlights

mist lifted dawn
Pell Tanner

deer play
in the field
of the full moon
white tails
sail into the forests
of silver mist
lifted with a winter dawn
in a way
just the same
as you imagine


zen pie

Pell Tanner

in the past
i have dreamed the future
but I never know
what to believe
the truth I an ever after
Seemingly just out of reach
let me say
that’s all right with me


The House is Soft

Ursala Le Guin

The house is soft, softly carpentered,
Even the nails are yieding, semi-transparent.
People come in one by one
And live there a while, quiely feasting,
And leave by the door they entered.
They leave the house forever but not empty;
The passages of the house remember,
The windows look not only out
But inward to the tender rooms.



Ursala Le Guin

Imagine dark.
Forty years’ rain.
The sinking ark.

No dogs bark
Or doves complain
In the long dark.

No eel or shark
noses in vain
the ribs of the ark.

No star, no spark.
No full or wane.
Silence and dark.

Without mark,
without stain,
bright, stark,

the ocean’s arc
is bare again
above the dark.
The sunken ark.


Your Heart is Fine

Joanne Kyger

       Your heart is fine   feeling the widest
possible empathy for the day and its inhabitants

Thanks for looking at the wind
In the top of the eucalyptus
dancing like someone you know
well   ‘I’m here  I’m here  I’m here’

    The wind picks up
a rush of leaves waving

     wildly for your understanding
– apple, plum, bamboo
rooted and flourishing
next to your home
In the air   awake

     without defect



Thomas Merton

I am about to make my home
In the bell’s summit
Set my mind a thousand feet high
On the ace of songs
In a mood of needles and random lights
To purify
The quick magnetic sodas of the skin

I will call the deep protectors out of the ground
The givers of wine
The writers of peace and waste
And sundown riddles

The threat of winter gleams in gray-haired windows
And witty mirrors
And fear lies over the sea

But birds fly uncorrected across burnt lands
The surest home is pointless:
We learn by the cables of orioles

I am about to build my nest
In the misdirected and unpaid express
As I walk away from this poem

Hiding the ace of freedoms

The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.