Archive for January, 2012

While Mr. Tao slept among the Petals of the Emperor

January 31, 2012


While sitting in the tea house listening to the rain,
Mr. Tao would often simplify his sleep.
He’d pour a glass of wine and study all the words
he’d found inscribed in the wet garden sand.
Surely messages from the Bean-flower Emperor!
Or characters lost—lost in an empty visibility.
Just suppose this world has become a tableau vivant
and nothing is allowed to move ever again.
Or suppose, these poems he finds
are but the first line in a very long conversation
to be had even while he sleeps
among the petals of the Emperor.


When Mr. Tao went to swim in the glass sea,
the ocean’s passions were dark and forbidden to him.
Even your love was hidden by the waves.
It was like the fragile glass had been shattered,
like it was not to be a part of this world anymore.
The ocean seemed to play a single note
inside a symphony of complex sounds.
It’s why he had to swim for shore alone,
my dear, and why he almost drowned.
And why it rained all night last night—
even while Mr. Tao slept
among the petals of the Emperor.


This poem was ‘nudged’ in a certain direction by ‘New Pond Song 80’ by Tom D’Evelyn. They are, however, very different types of poems. I recommend his wholeheartedly.


January 24, 2012

The way the world sways. Every leaf left
in place, its stance chiseled to each blade,
an iteration of time; each tassel of seeds,
thy bread, thy handmaiden;
as breath on the brink of disappearance,
becomes a wave become water; proportions so
large so as to stagger the seasons—
one winter questioning another.

We listen. We listen as if musical crabs are tracing a
giant sine wave across the dark mud flats.
We watch it as if a rotted rowboat, its oars like two hands
at prayer, is signaling a gesture
of permanence towards the sky. The grass
has turned from gray to blue to green.
The tide washes in. A bell is rung.
It’s as if the merry-go-round has turned it’s calliope on.
What Lao-tse has said is true.
The earth is a bellows. Use it.
The grasslands bellow and glow.

On Island

January 14, 2012

Child, do you see anywhere that I could sit,
either on the common ground or in the groves
belonging to the god?

For your eyes’ glint, green is not of land, but of
Anselm’s famous assumption that greatness
resides in existence—like salt water in the sea, say,
or fantasy’s strange struggle with what is,
after all, simply a child at the edge of the ocean.

Idle eyes can be like a crown
you wear to mock the idylls of a king.
They can be a story of a wedded existence—
its laurels, its pride—here on this island, where we
can be as a bride saying her nuptial vows.

Or they can reveal only the darkest of shadows,
that which there is  none greater than, more like
a crowded movie theatre than an empty cave
and when its monuments are an illusion…
why, we should not be able to see at all.

That which there is none greater than—
like the breaking crests of the waves forever,
some from the setting sun, some from his rising,
and some from the place of his midday beams,
and some from the northern mountains of night…

…must necessarily exist. And so
the swell of water becomes a rising of the evening air.
Poetry resides in its existence.
My name is Anselm.
Child, please find me my chair.

* Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus

Anselm’s Island

January 4, 2012