After the Chinese of Li Yü (d. 978 CE)


My bark is but a leaf,
no oar
but the will
of the errant spring breeze,
this way, that way.
A loose line of fishing string,
on its end a light hook
might serve as rope
and anchor.
The destination:
that flower-covered islet.
The prize:
 an icy cask of wine.

Since nothing here is what it is,
but what it stands for,
one or ten thousand waves,
one of ten thousand realms,
what do they matter?

I do not need the island.
I do not, at the moment, crave
the plum green savor of wine.
I have my freedom.


Water, the chemist says,
is incompressible.
The delicate waves,
invisible and relentness,
a unity, break up
a thousand-piled layer
of warlike snowflakes.
They never stood a chance.
Now comes the onslaught:
cloud upon cloud upon cloud
of plum and peach and cherry
bannermen from Spring’s
inevitable and drumless army
throw themselves down
upon the snowbanks.
White mists enshroud
the waiting wine cask.
I sit with fishing rod and line.
One season has fought and won,
one season has held, and died.
I am doing nothing. Who else
could be as happy as I am?


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