Grieving a Father

for Jingting

Six thousand miles of tears,
A pearl on the swan’s neck,
To arrive at the Ice Festival
Of my father’s funeral.
Who expects grief to flower in Spring?

Dr. Liu

When Dr. Liu died and word spread,
His patients in the countryside
Received the news with disbelief.
The old had good reason to worry.
How would they get to the city?

Green Losses

How many are the green losses
How heavy are the losses
Ask the animals
And they will tell you
Ask the earth and it will teach you

Those sleeping in the earth
Who loved the earth
And were murdered protecting it
I wish for them the richest blackness
Of soul-seeding eternity
Starry nights of soil
Wetland awakenings

For those murdered
Protecting the earth
Wherever the black sunbird flies
I wish for them the revenge
Of regeneration and restoration

May the vines of the Amazon
Entwine them all about the neck
May the heavens uproot
The worldly children
And save a garden for the rest

Ignotum Per Ignotius

That train goes nowhere
The track ends at Steams Station
The fog there is dense
The conductor is mad
And in the faces of people I meet
In every language I hear
Even when a traveler manages
A few clear words
The unknown by the more unknown
Those who preach proselytize politicize
The unknown by the more unknown
The unknown crowed
Certain convinced intractable
Ancient graffiti on walls
That track-side flash
Between the unknown
And the more unknown

Turning Sixty

At last I am the number of the earth.
I can sleep its rotations
Without grumbling about past or future.
I feel sixty cubits tall, like my own temple.
Like the distance between earth and moon.
I feel like an abundance of time,
Divide me and I grow in number,
Sixty times more desirous of love,
Sixty times less willing to judge,
Sixty times closer to no end
And sixty times more grateful.

Killing Apollo

Apollo’s head in a Zurich antiquarians,
A dead godhead with a paper price tag,
Much like the other mediocrities of Europe
On sale—composers, fiddlers and writers
Like that cracked bust of Goethe,
All embarrassments of conscience.

But who killed Apollo? Who’d want
To kill a god of beauty, order and knowledge,
And for what reason, what gain,
Decapitate the sun of justice,
Sever the hands of science and medicine
And inter them in regression,
Murder the protector of the innocent
And exploit the violence of profit,
Hiding in plain sight like lies in language.

We’ll never know who did the killing,
Buried in earth’s arcane history
Apollo’s torso and assassin lay side by side.

Ice Storm

Branches encased in ice
frozen at the edge of light
the sound of ice igniting
is like fire shattering
contracting and expanding
the crack in the earth
methane through permafrost
at the glazing a transformation
things pass into transparency
in a sleep-like state all children
of light and light of blight
on a planet of fire and ice
and crystals of mortal salt
the stillness before the setting
the wind at first frost
freezes the skin of water
the ringing of light
and conception of rime
freezing point of mind
and all the unkindness
and all that is malign
appears like a silver thaw
of clouds crushing to a stop

Some Colors of Words

We spoke wine-press “purple words”
Blending with wine-makers’ voices
Splashing purple across work floors.

“Blue words” kept the world aloft,
Like branch, bird, cloud and water…
Like time, spirit, celestial and divine…

“Green words” grew among us like grapes
And sang the sun’s green gratitude
For smoke and rain, twilight and dreams.

The “black words” we saw in color
Were indigo buntings in a magic forest
Or like fish that swallow moonlight.

Only at the entrance to the underworld
Are the unforgiving fluent in ash,
Though the words are dowsed in past light.