Thursday, December 31, 2015

night in the pavilion

night in the pavilion

at year’s dusk, Yin & Yang rush brief daylight to dark
here at sky’s edge, frost then snow then clear bitter night

fifth watch drum & trumpet ring out rousing, tragic:
above Three Gorges the galaxy’s shadow trembles

keening in fields: how many grieve men cut down in battle?
songs in strange tongues: here & there fishermen, woodsmen rising

Leaping Horse, Crouching Dragon: heroes, now yellow earth—
word of human affairs vanishes into silence


Jack Hayes

© 2015
based on Du Fu:
gé yè

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
“Soldiers of the teracotta army in pit 1. Xian, China.”: photograph by Hans A. Rosbach, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

beautiful lady

beautiful lady

there is a beautiful lady, matchless,
who lives hidden away in a deserted valley;
she says she comes from an upright family:
stricken, fallen, she makes do among trees & grass—
when the rebels overran the frontier passes last year
her brothers met their end in a slaughter;
& their high rank did them no good:
she could not recover their corpses for burial

this world despises whatever’s had its day:
all things wavering as a lamp’s flame in wind—
her husband proved a capricious sort:
his new bride is lovely as jade;
a vetch knows to fold its leaves together at sunset
mandarin ducks don’t spend the night apart—
but as he heeds his new wife’s laughter,
how can he hear his old wife’s weeping?

a stream runs clear & pure from a mountain spring:
but once it falls from the heights its waters turn muddy—
her maidservant returns from selling pearls
& drags vines across the thatched roof to patch it—
the lady picks blossoms, but not to place in her hair;
& often she gathers handfuls of cypress—
the air is cold: her lustrous blue sleeves thin:
at sunset she leans against the frail bamboos

Jack Hayes & Sheila Graham Smith
© 2015
based on Du Fu:
jiā rén

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Chrysanthemums and Bamboos: Xu Wei – 16th century
Public Domain

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

night snow

night snow

startled to find my quilt & pillow cold
I see bright light again outside the window—
deep in night, it’s clear a heavy snow’s fallen:
at times I hear the report as bamboo snaps

Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Bai Juyi:
yè xuě

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
“Bamboo in snow” from the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Painting and Calligraphy: Hu Zhengyan – 1633
Public Domain

Monday, December 28, 2015

ancient air #9

ancient air #9

when Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly
did the butterfly become Zhuang Zhou?

in one body’s effortless metamorphosis
the ten thousand things appear in endless virtue

you know eastern seas pass the isle of immortals
to flow as a clear shallow stream from the west

the man who plants his melons outside Ch’ing Gate
at one time held sway as Lord of Dongling—

the same law governs riches & fame:
abuzz, disquieted, what is it we seek?

Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Li Bai: 古風 (九)
gǔ fēng (jiǔ)

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Zhuangzi Dreaming of a Butterfly:  Shibata Zeshin, 1888, ink on paper, Honolulu Museum of Art, accession 13879.1
Public domain

(the name 莊周 has been Romanized in various ways: Zhuang Zou & Zhuangzi are typical contemporary versions using the simplified pinyin system, while under the older Wade-Giles system the name was typically Chuang Tzu or Chuang Chou)


Saturday, December 26, 2015

moonlit night

moonlit night

 for Sheila

tonight the moon shines down on Fuzhou:
in her chamber she watches it, alone—

far away, I pity our children, so small:
they have no memory of Chang’an—

her perfumed cloud-soft hair’s damp with mist:
in clear light her white jade arms shiver—

when will we lean together by open curtains
as moonlight dries all trace of our tears?


Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Du Fu:
yuè yè

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

Tang Dynasty Tomb Painting
Public domain

Friday, December 25, 2015

full moon

full moon

orphan moon above: house awash in light,
cold night river below flows past the gate—
moon showers gold across the restless current,
reflects on the woven mat outshining silk;
empty mountains quiet—undiminished circle
suspended high extinguishing constellations;
in the garden pines bear cones & cassia blooms:
for ten thousand miles the same clear radiance

Jack Hayes & Sheila Graham-Smith
© 2015
based on Du Fu:
yuè yuán

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
A Painting by Ong Schan Tchow entitled "Pine In Moonlight": Family of Ong Schan Tchow
Public domain (per Wiki Commons)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

facing snow

facing snow

after battle many new ghosts wail:
an anxious old man, alone, recites poetry

at dusk the low clouds are in shambles
& snow dances fast whirling on the wind

the dipper’s cast aside: the wine cup drained
but the stove holds its fire glowing red

the news cut off from several prefectures:
anxious, I sit bolt upright, write words in the air

Jack Hayes

© 2015
based on Du Fu:
對 雪
duì xuě

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Two Tomb Guardians, Tang Dynasty: photograph by Wiki User sailko, who makes the image available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

bodega head sutra

        for Danielle & Jen

breakers & rip currents churn never the same
always the same: cobalt & steel & froth &
sparks of sunlight on heaving waves this
                                     day after your wedding &
here we all are in the midst of
glory & sea gulls!
                         & hard-boiled eggs, champagne
grapes, coffee in paper cups because you’ve
affirmed love on that
        scorching Sonoma July afternoon:
you in black party dress your bride in black tux—
                                       today your cowgirl straw hat &
shades & her weathered ball cap: returning to
your quotidian of picnics &
                                       plans & comfortable
clothes: all that love might entail
                                        —restless ocean everyone
clambers down trails where ice plant clings to
contemplate: we’re each small & in another’s
             reflection unique—the Pacific
opaque casting spray in ten thousand droplets casting
quantum photons off this
                           perpetually moving surface—
at the picnic table a guitar a violin two
                          voices in quirky harmony sing you
love songs that hang on the sea breeze, fade
under ocean rumble as we
              all do yearning impermanent lingering

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

winter solstice

winter solstice

year after year on the solstice festival
                                       always a wanderer
day after day dead broke & careworn:
                                        buried alive in mud

my face reflected in this river:
                                        aging alone in a land
at sky’s edge among aliens & their customs
                                        far from kinfolk & ancestors

taking my goosefoot cane to trudge through
                                       snow in cinnabar gully;
jade ringing for morning court, sound scatters 
through Zichen Hall

this season there’s not one inch of my heart
my road has strayed: where to find again the
                                       holy threefold capital

Jack Hayes 

© 2015
based on Du Fu:
dōnɡ zhì

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
“Modell av grunden till Hanyuan hall” (“Model of the foundations of Hanyuan Hall”): photo by Wiki Commons user Bairuilong, & is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Hanyuan Hall was one of the “Three Great Halls” in the Tang Daming Palace in Chang’an (modern Xi’an)

Monday, December 21, 2015

rain (4 poems)

rain (4 poems)

the first


fine rain falling: not enough to slick roads:
broken wispy clouds shifting, returning

& dark hastens to settle on purple cliffs:
white birds wing from the edge, & shine—

in autumn sun, freshly stained shadows:
by the cold river, familiar voices sink—

brushwood gate overlooks a country mill
half done hulling fragrant sticky rice

the second


river rain, worn out, becomes sporadic:
all at once the clear sky exhales silken mist

at autumn’s dusk things turn cold & damp:
today the clouds advance slowly past the sun—

mounted my horse I go nowhere:
watching gulls never still, never departing

a high pavilion above Goosetail Rock—
this damp air calms my library curtain

the third


the look of things makes it clear: the year’s grown late:
no one comes back from this far corner of sky,—

north wind carries cries of birds the rain’s swoosh swoosh
this trembling blur of snow & rain rain & snow—

a long-time sick I try to take more food:
wasting away as I am, I’m given new clothes

a precarious season: I brood on death’s withering—
old friends’ letters grow brief, infrequent


the fourth


in this Chu rain, moss thrives on rocks
but news from the capital city’s delayed—

in cold mountains, the black rhinoceros roars:
on the evening river, gulls screech, hungry

rain goddess lets her flower hairpins fall:
the mermaids’ shuttle moans, weaving in grief—

cares multiply: they can’t be disentangled:
rain the whole day spilling down like silk

Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Du Fu:
yǔ sì shǒu

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image connects to its source on Wiki Commons
Ji Zhi Wen Gao (Funeral Address for Nephew Ji-ming):  Yan Zhenqing (a renowned piece of Tang Dynasty calligraphy)
Public domain

Friday, December 11, 2015

green line sutra

unwashed sky this east wind bitter—big raindrops
spaced wide smacking asphalt: inchoate
pattern—umbrellas faces black raincoats wait on
the green line inbound arriving at Harvard Ave:
mercy may fall like rain but not this rain

& mother: collapsing white trellis still wound
in unpruned roses—that is, convalescent
ancient at a loss—but that was yesterday
& the sky didn’t promise much then either:
opaque future—cumulus layers of past

as rain comes down sparse chilled erratic—
woman with crouching tiger tattooed on pale
left forearm offers her seat: I ask no one when
I got this old—& you yet older, us
riding the green line 1962—&

mother: ancient Cape Cod house collapsing on
that flood plain in massive rain—brother sister:
never at once in the same place—the house
wrecked as the green line train runs through it: sister,
elder: brother, younger—distance like continents

so how would forgive you appear to either: glare
splashed on these subway walls, these shadows
attenuated, sulfur reek, the green line rattling
on toward Boyleston back in time back in time—
at last emerging to more percussive rain

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

in the bamboo lodge

in the bamboo lodge

alone, sitting in this dark bamboo grove,
I pluck the qin, whistle long & shrill
in this deep forest unnoticed by any
the bright moon comes to share illumination

Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Wang Wei:
zhú lǐ guǎn

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Bamboo: Xu Wei, c. 1540-1590, ink on paper
Public domain

Monday, December 7, 2015



cows & sheep long since down from pasture:
each brushwood gate is already closed
the wind & moon inhabit their own clear night—
but these rivers these mountains aren’t my homeland:
a spring gushes from rocks on a darkened cliff
dew drips from grass watering autumn roots—
my snowy head within the bright lamplight:
why would the burning wick form such blossoms

Jack Hayes 

© 2015 based on Du Fu: 日暮
rì mù

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Clearing Autumn Skies over Mountains and Valleys (detail): Guo Xi, Song Dynasty (11th century)
Public domain

Sunday, December 6, 2015

crows crying at nightfall

crows crying at nightfall

yellow clouds: crows wish to roost by the city walls
returning they caw caw: in the boughs they’re crying
the Qin River woman weaves brocade on the loom
jade green thread like smoke: the window muffles her voice
upset, she stops the shuttle: recalls the man far away
all night by herself in a lonely room: tears like rain

Jack Hayes
© 2015
based on Li Bai: 乌夜啼
wū yè tí

Image links to its source at the Iowa State website – ultimate source is the Smithsonian
“A Silk Loom”: no further information (thanks to Sheila Graham-Smith for finding this image)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

black ghost sutra

(for my father)

aromas of Carter Hall pipe tobacco &
pine sawdust jumbled: by night you appear
aloof as though living yet: head bowed, bald pate
hemmed in by the usual crewcut, gray-faced,

        a shop light’s fluorescent
quaver, shellac’s jagged odor, fly-tying vise
gripping a number 4 hook, yellow saddle
hackle & white maribou & peacock herl
remnants of birds

       white birch outside the door gracile
spectral the yellow leaves about to drop:
in a workbench drawer the snakeskin you found in
the woodpile that summer—
        as a boy would—network of scales &

       the brook trout’s copper & gunmetal
flash where Cold River churned: above us white
birch with green moss veneer, below the riverbank
brambles: a cast into autumn waters beneath
floating golden leaves:

       black ghost streamer darts: alien in-
animate visitor in a world of motion it mimics:
feathers in that current, spasmodic, darting at
the play of your wrist:

                            as you sit hunched
immobile in these small hours, briarwood
spent, you must require tending

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

river snow

river snow

on a thousand mountains no birds take flight
on ten thousand paths men’s footprints erased
a single boat: old man in raincoat, hat
alone, chilled, fishing in this river snow

Jack Hayes © 2015
based on Liu Zongyuan’s
jiāng xuě

Image links to its source in Wiki Commons:
“Fishing on a Snowy River”: Xu Daoning, 11th century, Song Dynasty, ink and light color on silk hanging scroll
Public domain

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

lily magnolia park


lily magnolia park

autumn hills keep day’s leftover light:
bird darts after its departing mate
kingfisher-green gleams just an instant:
sunset mist without any fixed place

Jack Hayes © 2015
based on Wang Wei’s
mù lán chái

Image links to it source on Wiki Commons

Autumn Colors on Rivers and Mountains: anonymous Northern Song Dynasty painter, ink and color on a silk handscroll

Public domain

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thoughts while Traveling at Night

Thoughts while Traveling at Night
delicate river grass in trifling winds
the boat’s high mast: solitary in the night

stars hang nearly low as these vast flatlands
the moon surges up from the Yangtze's currents

how can you earn a name writing poems?
an official grown old & ill needs to retire

drifting & drifting: what is that like?
a lone gull between the earth & sky

Jack Hayes © 2015
based on Du Fu’s
lǚ yè shū huái

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
“A Thousand Li of Mountains & Rivers”: Wang Ximeng, 1113 (ink & color on silk)
public domain

Saturday, November 28, 2015

cloudy day coffee sutra

what would you call that sky? dissolving to
mist unfit for paper birds all falling
ash-gray slate-gray nickel-gray falling in
counterpoint with yellow leaves—what
would you call that tree?
gray limbs in dancer’s
gestures reaching & reaching
that low sky
can’t be grasped those folds upon folds of
clouds this massive origami not what it seems this
tonnage of ice & water as if the Pacific mirrored it-
self in what some call heavens—
                                      vapor rising from
two cups of coffee on this counter, trans-
muted liquid: you know, language is like that
paper birds afloat in the mind &
folded with no beginning no end the speech
of birds in an ash tree scissoring loose its
, gray branches the lichen mottled cream-
white milk-white what would you call those
no two alike no two different all
looking for something not apparent you said
god is like that too the water droplet within the
ocean seeking the ocean
                         that sky lowering, that
bird in silhouette that Chinese character’s
brushstrokes tracing black green blue in one
syllable what would
you call that? quadrillion
raindrops paper birds imagined branches this
coffee steam rising up these people walking it
goes without saying all one all undiminished

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Autumn Wind Poem

Autumn Wind Poem

the autumn wind’s fresh
the autumn moon’s bright
leaf fall gathers & likewise scatters
jackdaw roosts, startles, perches again
how can we know the next day we’ll see each other
this season, this night: these passions can’t be governed

Jack Hayes © 2015
based on Li Bai’s
秋 風 詞
qiū fēng cí

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
English: Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus, Beijing
中文:  里寒鸦,摄于北京通县坝河,自拍。

Originally from zh.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
The original uploader was 中文维基百科的 Snowyowls

本文件采用知识共享“署名-相同方式共享 1.0 通用
that is: Published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"bird call in stream valley"

bird call in stream valley

a man at rest: tea olive blossoms fall
this night still: springtime mountain empty—
the moon comes out, alarming mountain birds:
for a time they chatter within the stream valley

© Jack Hayes 2015
based on Wang Wei’s
niǎo míng jiàn鸟鸣涧

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
‘After Wang Wei's "Snow Over Rivers and Mountains"’: Wang Shih-min, 1668
[none of Wang Wei’s original paintings survive, but there are a number of later paintings based on his work]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

After Li Bai’s “Cháng xiāng sī”

After Li Bai’s “cháng xiāng sī”


eternal longing
in the city called eternal peace
crickets weave autumn weeping by the gold-railed well,
frost clings to my bamboo mat—bitter, bitter cold—tints it wintry
this single lantern flickers; I want to extinguish thoughts,
& roll back the curtain & look at the moon—my sighs hollow—
the beautiful one’s a blossom far off past the edge of clouds
above is the black expanse of lofty heavens
below is the green water with breakers & floods
the heavens endless, the road remote, my spirit’s flight bitter—
the dream spirit won’t arrive, the mountain pass rises arduous
eternal longing 
my heart laid waste

Jack Hayes © 2015
based on Li Bai’s Cháng xiāng sī 长相思

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
The Mount Huashan in Xi'an [Xi’an is modern Chang’an—i.e., the city named “endless peace”, which is what Chang’an means]: photo by Flickr user Darren On The Road who has made it available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

country music sutra

it becomes tiresome: all melodythe sparrow’s song with
no traffic roar behind it—sparrow in the hedge I never
see it emerge
                        & just last night I could see my future in
chill air outside the hospital walking through drizzle uphill
to the bus stop
                        you aren’t part of it in those cottonwood leaves
fallen yellow by the barbed wire fence in an Idaho
cemetery where we
                       could see our breath & smiled for a
photograph—today a drizzle falls while a pale yellow
sun tries to burn no
                       brighter than those leaves & as
damp in an eastern sky; when I walk out this morning on-
to the city’s pavement
                       I’ll put on that same jacket
for 5 miles looking for someone else who is likewise not
inhabiting that future—
                       that man smiling next to you in the
the country graveyard: myself & not, & when that
future opens its throat:
                       a sparrow in the hedge drowned in
the number 4 bus line’s rale & wheeze & cottonwoods
cast off yellow leaves in light
                       rain: this G chord arpeggiated to the
B string damped in faint air

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Listening to Rain (After Jiang Jie)

Listening to Rain (After Jiang Jie)
(To the tune “Beautiful Lady Yu”)

as a young man listening to rain
amidst exquisite curtains, the courtesans’ song
red candles lighting the salon

in middle age listening to rain
on a transport boat running the big river,
sky falling low, away from my home,
a single goose bawling on the west wind

in old age listening to rain,
a guest of monks, hair white as starshine:
sorrow, joy, separation, union, move me no more;
let rain keep falling until brilliant dawn

Jack Hayes
© 2015
Based on Jiang Jie: (虞美人) 听雨      
(yú měi rén) tīng yǔ

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
北宋 范宽 雪景寒林 (“Journey Between Stream & Mountains”): Fan K'uan, 1010 CE
Public Domain

Friday, October 30, 2015

november sutra composed in october

calculus of loss: two plane tree leaves yellow-brown
each curled like a hand sinking in the puddle on
the corner below the stop sign

descending chromatic bass line in E minor the
silver flute discharging the tune the Willamette
swirls frigid beneath the Steel Bridge

I tell you goodbye each afternoon the clouds the
blue sky the pine trees draining through the blinds &
question myself if I mean it

so we talked about death your death just the gray
speckled stones beyond the window eaves-
dropped & an empty gray sky

to my right as I walk the apple leaves are rust to
my left as I walk the hawthorn leaves are rust a
waning moon will rise bone-white

by evening—it’s easy to say the self is an
abstraction until that self peers through eyes seeing tomorrow
through a west window glazed by

sunset & lights in the sky you say the international
space station
sinking nearer & nearer earth &
then not even rocks not even absence

not a photograph not a snow drift not a white house
the plane tree at the corner sheds a brown leaf to concrete
large as my outstretched hand


Jack Hayes
© 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"milk and eggs"

milk and eggs

this girl
got bold eyes
and she hide them
behind cool shades.
this girl cool.

this girl,
she look at the men
and she look at the women, too
this girl don't care that they see
they see black
they see sky looking back
see their own ideas

don't see them bold eyes
but they know
they feel that
in their skin
the small of their back

shoot through them
that look
those eyes
bold eyes

this girl
she smile
she walk on

a thousand adulteries of the heart
twelve of the mind
milk and eggs
back home for tea 

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2015

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Kniende in orange-rotem Kleid (Kneeling Female in Orange-Red Dress) - drawing; 1910: Egon Schiele
Public domain

Friday, September 11, 2015

light & shadow sutra

zinnias for all their red gold violet spectrum
beside the gray sidewalk
       appear neither glad nor sad at midday—

at midnight aspens in a ditch past your windows rustle
leaves as if rain-struck but
       no raindrops fall—last Sunday the

beads of mist on the rosa rugosa alba’s
spent blossom & I thought
        teardrops but that was another day—

today Wednesday a pair of Canada geese
paddle in the shadow of
        Burnside Bridge as the sun’s

photons kindle glints across the river as
though the water ran metal—
        Monday evening the wind chimes

outside your door strike together in bamboo
five-tone song without words ex-
        cept the words you add—

the carp thrashing iridescent in a fisherman’s
net in noon sun without
        shadows except those in my mind—

gray heron posed in Sunday’s drizzle on a
beached log like a man in a
        morning park’s fog practicing tai chi:

weight back relaxed torque spiraling through his
sinews—you recumbent on a distant
        lawn in the dark observing the Milky Way

spread out overhead a spangled map of photons &
voids referring to history &
        dreams one can’t say out loud

here in afternoon a bridge abutment to thin air &
green metal water & blinding sun
        hunkers between two ash trees

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

sutra with sunflowers & you

sunflowers aspire curbside: yellow
explosion of kitchen clocks—
            petals marking ticks against
permanence, which just now equals sky blue sky &
            white sun we can’t see past or into—black
brush stroke service wires below—contrails aloft—

everything in this story connects:
sunflowers my height plus a hand reaching
             you (not “you”) in a photo planting a
sacred fig in another country under another
             of these zillion suns: as blinding—

the fig your height plus a hand reaching skyward—
brown leaves green leaves scattered in
             gestures of resignation across
ground cleared of land mines—fig sapling aspiring
             to shade the next enlightenment—

what sunlight’s flash & blaze divulge: these zillion
dust motes flutter encompassing each a
             cosmos swirling in anguish & seeking—each
day seeking you again for the first time:
             I need to make over my life—

a yellow clock’s hands sweep imperceptible
circles until this afternoon crescent lost
            outside in light sets itself in
motion toward a sunset’s moonrise
& at last the big seed heads bow in late afternoon

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015



The traveller who crossed the Halles at the end of summer
Was walking on her tiptoes
And across the sky despair furled its big calla lilies such beauties
And in the handbag was my dream that bottle of salt
Solely breathed by God’s godmother
Torpors spread out like steam
At the Smoking Dog Café
Where Pro and Con had just entered
The young woman could be seen only poorly and in profile
Was I dealing with the ambassadress of saltpeter
Or the white curve against the black background which we call thought
The ball of the innocents was in full swing
The lanterns caught fire slowly in the chestnut trees
The lady who cast no shadow knelt down on the Pont au Change
In Rue Gît-le-Cœur the pealing was no longer the same
Night’s promises were kept at last
The carrier pigeons the emergency kisses
Joined with the beautiful unknown one’s breast
Thrusting under the crepe of perfect meanings
A farm prospered in the midst of Paris
And its windows looked out on the Milky Way
But no one was living in it on account of the guests
The guests that one knows are more devoted than ghosts
The ones like that woman seemed to be swimming
And into love there enters a little of their substance
She takes them in
I am not the plaything of any sensory power
And yet the cricket that sang in the ashen hair
One evening near the statue of Etienne Marcel
Shot me a knowing glance
André Breton it said may pass through

André Breton
Translation by Jack Hayes

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

love song with butterflies

the flock of cabbage whites rises up from the sweet pea,
grapevines, blackberries twisted through chain link along
Vancouver—if they’re really a flock of ghosts basking in
August heat they remember nothing not even your
face—just imagine!—intent as they are on the parking
strip Queen Anne’s Lace, as oblivious to the howl of the 44
bus, only noting the woman pushing a blue
stroller when trying to occupy the same space, which
they do not want—if one in their midst is dreaming
he’s Chuang Tzu dreaming himself a butterfly no
change takes place
                if one in their midst is Chuang Tzu
dreaming he is the butterfly they are occupying the same space

i think i want to occupy the same space as you for
moments in time on this August afternoon—& what says
desire like a queen size mattress taking the sun on a
brown lawn flanked by Japanese maples?—they remember
nothing not even your asymmetrical face & as always
you’re elsewhere—still I glimpse my reflection in this
plate glass window—beard streaked white as if this flock of
cabbage whites was about to rise up—as if
they’re really a flock of ghosts electrified by
desire & the parking strip’s purple clover
                    the same space
from the inside not reflected & all at once

if i could set aside desire in a box my grandfather carved with rose blossoms
if i could set aside desire in a box my father crafted with two veneer hearts on top
if i could set aside desire in a box of ashes

this ghost that ghost the ghost inscribed with your full name


Jack Hayes
© 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

"On Death's Road"

On Death's Road
On Death's road,
My mother met a huge ice-floe;
She wanted to speak,
It was already too late,
A huge cotton ice-floe.
She looked at us my brother and me,
And then she cried.
We told her— truly absurd lie— that we understood completely.
Then she smiled this delightful smile a really young girl's,
It was truly her,
Such a pretty smile, almost mischievous;
Then she was snatched into the Opaque.

Henri Michaux
translation by Jack Hayes


Image links to its source on
1927 drawing by Henri Michaux

Monday, July 20, 2015

pastoral in negative space #5

a double sunflower gazing east on this scorching
morning takes note of nothing except sunlight's
spectra—for you, the red lean-to, tin roof weighted by
truck tires, sheep fence heaped & spilling from the front,
is inseparable from the surroundings: power lines, a
magpie preening on a stop sign on the lookout for death—
no anger no sorrow no despair in a landscape until
you take it in—sure, the rocky south face of the mesa—
basalt, morning glory, backhoe—glares sun-blistered—
but the meadowlark trilling at noon from a mullein in
yellow flower could make you stop an instant, thinking:
the brilliance of the cosmos within a feathered body—&
your vision evaporates on August’s desperate wind

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

pastoral in negative space #4

buzz of grasshoppers in mid afternoon:
it electrifies the tall grass—black faced hornet
darting around the pump house—vespula
vulgaris creeping under the soffits—across the
highway’s heat shimmer baby blue & white
bee boxes—landscape of insects dry pasture &
wire—mailbox at the fork in the gravel road
(more wasps)—another quarter mile, the pasture’s bales
cast shadows in a transitory henge—a gunmetal gray
horse trailer a rust orange tractor a heap of railroad
ties along the gravel drive—atavistic ridgeline
eastward consumed in last July’s wildfire—
skeletal pines halting black in your range of vision

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

pastoral in negative space #3

dry creek bed cutting emptiness through hard pan &
steel post fence line, July 2011—a track for coyotes
stalking like ghosts in a landscape where animals flicker
to shades in interminable twilight—emptiness of this
summer: the tire swing dangling a zero from that
big cottonwood above the chicory flowers &
thistle—later there could be spectral stars re-
flecting the creek that flowed with spring run-off
in another lifetime—whirr of a fan in a single-
wide trailer—electric yip of coyotes—cumulus
clouds solarized at the horizon in flash burn
sunset—dry creek bed lacking hope or lack of
hope in this vanishing emptiness you can’t fathom


Jack Hayes
© 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

pastoral in negative space #2

west wind rustling through fescue & ryegrass parched in
August said nothing you could repeat—numinous as
an oxygen concentrator huffing in a bedroom lit
up vermilion in total lunar eclipse—
nothing you could repeat: sprinkler head changing
water to smoke & each pine torches root to
crown on the pyrokinetic mountain—nothing you
could repeat: redwinged blackbird caught in full
trill rippling the pond’s cirrus cloud surface—
these mule deer materializing within whatever
comes next to silence across the twilight mesa:
handful of whispered secrets you deny to yourself,
photograph of a voice pronouncing nothing

Jack Hayes
© 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

pastoral in negative space #1

this is not a patch of black iris blooming next to
cement steps—this is not the cement steps painted
spanish blue that lead to the back door painted
spanish blue—this is not the back door of the 1920s
farmhouse listing southwest as the ground shifts
timbers until west windows crack & south
windows break jagged—this is neither those
windows nor the absence of those windows,
abandoned as they may still open onto a dying
locust a post fence a dry pasture—this is not a
dry pasture this is not a pond overrun with cattails
this is not May when black iris unfurl this is not a
thing with a name in words except in these words


Jack Hayes
© 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Poem Read At André Salmon’s Wedding"

Poem Read At André Salmon’s Wedding

July 13 1909

Seeing the flags this morning I didn’t tell myself
Behold the rich garments of the poor
Or democratic modesty wants to veil its sorrow
Or honoring liberty now makes us imitate
Leaves o vegetable liberty o sole earthly liberty
Or the houses are ablaze because we’ll leave never to return
Or these restless hands will labor tomorrow for us all
Or even they’ve hanged those who couldn’t make the most of life
Or even they’ve renewed the world by recapturing the Bastille
I know it’s only renewed by those grounded in poetry
Paris is decked out because my friend André Salmon’s getting married there

We used to meet up in a damned dive
When we were young
Both of us smoking and shabbily dressed waiting for sunrise
Smitten smitten with the same words whose meanings will have to be changed
Deceived deceived poor kids and we still didn’t know how to laugh
The table and two glasses became a dying man who cast us Orpheus’ last glance
The glasses fell shattered
And we learned how to laugh
We parted then pilgrims of perdition
Across streets across countries across reason
I saw him again on the bank of the river where Ophelia was floating
Who still floats white amongst the water lilies
He went off amongst wan Hamlets
Playing the airs of madness on his flute
I saw him near a dying muzhik counting his blessings
While admiring the snow that looked like naked women
I saw him doing this or that in honor of the same words
That change children’s expressions and I’m saying these things
Recollection and Expectation because my friend André Salmon is getting

Let’s rejoice not because our friendship has been the river that made us fertile
River lands whose abundance is the nourishment all hope for
Or because our glasses cast once more Orpheus’ dying glance
Or because we’ve grown so large that many people confuse our eyes with stars
Or because flags flap at the windows of citizens who’ve been content these
          hundred years to have life and trifles to defend

Or because grounded in poetry we have the right to words that form and
          unmake the
Or because we can weep without being absurd and because we know how to
Or because we’re smoking and drinking as in the old days
Let’s rejoice because the director of fire and poets
Love filling like light
All the solid space between stars and planets
Love wishes that my friend André Salmon get married today

Guillaune Apollinaire
translation by Jack Hayes


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of June 30, 1878. 1878.
Public Domain

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"'Round Midnight" – Jazz on Nylon #9 (a & b)

A happy Sunday, friends. We’re back at you with another installment in the Jazz on Nylon series. Great song for a hot summer evening or night—so great in fact, that I’m posting two versions for your listening pleasure.

Thelonious Monk’s composition “’Round Midnight” is, according to the Jazz Standards website, “the most-recorded jazz standard written by any jazz musician.” There are conflicting stories about the songs composition. Some claim that Monk was as young as 18 or 19 when he wrote the song, originally under the title of “Grand Finale.” Others claim it was written in 1940 or 1941, when Monk was in his early 20s. At any rate, it’s known that trumpet player Cootie Williams recorded the song in 1944; as Cootie Williams shares the composition credit with Monk, it’s generally thought that a handful of Williams’ embellishments became a part of the song, but there is a bit of controversy on this point. Bernie Hanighen added lyrics a few years later.

“’Round Midnight” became a signature song for Cootie Williams, & later for Miles Davis as well (who titled an album “Round About Midnight,” which led to this being used as an alternate title); Dizzy Gillespie & Art Pepper also recorded notable versions, & the vocal version has been sung by a number of jazz singers.

The song is written in the key of Eb minor, which is considerably more friendly for a piano, brass, or reed instrument than it is for the guitar. According to Jazz Standards,”the initial harmonic progression is i -vi -ii7 -V7, similar to ‘Alone Together’”; however, on the same page, saxophonist Jim Clark states that while this is the progression given in The Real Book, it’s not what he hears Monk & others actually playing.

My original idea was to post Ukrainian guitarists Roman Viazovskiy’s great version based on Roland Dyen’s arrangement. Intricate & highly lyrical, this is a beautiful reading. But let’s face it: when there’s a version that exists by the Brazilian virtuoso Baden Powell, it’s pretty hard to overlook that! The video & audio are better on the Viazovskiy rendition, but Powell’s highly improvised Latin reading is masterful—& given the importance of this song in the Jazz songbook, why not go with two versions? In addition, it will make up a little for the lapse since the last post in this series! Finally, as an added bonus for those who find even two versions to be insufficient: here’s a link to the great guitarist Wes Montgomery playing a jazz box version in his amazing thumb style & a link to a beautiful solo piano version by Monk himself.


Image links to its source on Wiki CommonsThelonious Monk, Minton's Playhouse, New York, ca. September 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb – Library of Congress, Public Domain

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That Summer Feeling (revisited)

Hello, friends! Hope you all are enjoying your summer at least as much as I have been.

From time to time a good friend sends me an email that begins with words to this effect: “As much as I enjoy your last blog post, it has been up for a really long time.” It’s true. Blog posts have been few & far between on Robert Frost’s Banjo this year. I used to fret about that sort of thing, & it’s true that at one time there were daily posts here, & even after that frenetic pace slowed down, there were still regular series & such.

For a lot of reasons, that has slowed down for a few years. I used to fret about it, but not so much anymore. I’m glad the blog is here to return to when I can, & I’m also content that there may be significant gaps between posts.

To a large extent, my life in Portland has been an active one as opposed to the more contemplative life I lived in Idaho during the blog’s first years. Though I still face challenges, my health is the best I’ve enjoyed in years, & for the most part that’s thanks to a dramatically increased activity level—walking five miles a day, playing softball from February through October, & regularly attending tai chi classes. I suppose I could chronicle these activities, especially as they might be of interest to other people with chronic lung issues, but I simply haven’t done so. For those who are really craving more regular updates about my activities, I do keep a blog for one of my softball teams, the Underhanded Compliments; however, I’d say it is of considerably more interest to the team members & their close friends & families than to a more general readership.

But the summer is here. & to celebrate it, I’m sharing (again, but the last time was 5 years ago!) one of my favorite songs about the season. Beautiful music, & amidst the fun of the rhymes & images, some deep thoughts about seizing the day.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

"may bouquet in daylight moonlight"

may bouquet in daylight moonlight

for Sheila
afternoon half moon eastward, sky’s acrylic
cerulean without a hint of brushstroke or

cumulus, flat & infinite above the bus stop—
still, for all their one-time crimson, lavender, bridal

white extravagance, rhododendrons shrink inward to-
day to brown husks beyond the concept of

spring—or splash across the sidewalk in
technicolor patterns determined by nothing more

nothing less than a May breeze—random &
fleshy as scraps of memory—

it was another thing in April, kwanzan blossoms
frothing on cherries lining the avenue—

the world different then in ways that make no sense—
except as this half moon swells ghostly into

its next phase—(when astronauts
touched down on the moon, which moon was it?)

at moonset fresh scarlet roses will carry on
opening maps into June & we’ll go
                         back to a place we haven’t been before

Jack Hayes
© 2015

(posted 5/28; revised 5/29)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Postman Cheval"

Postman Cheval

We the birds you always charm from atop these belvederes
And who each night form no more than one blossoming branch from your shoulders to
the arms of your beloved wheel-barrow
Which we uproot from your wrists more sharply than sparks
We are the sighs of the glass statue that rises itself up on its elbow when man sleeps
So shining breaches may open in his bed
Breaches through which can be glimpsed stags with coral antlers inside a glade
Or naked women at the very bottom of a mine
You remember then you got up you got off the train
Without a glance toward the locomotive preyed upon by immense barometric roots
That moans in the virgin forest for all its murdered boilers
Its smokestacks smoking hyacinths and stirred by blue serpents
We would then go before you we the plants subject to metamorphoses
Who each night send signals man can intercept
While his house tumbles down and he’s astounded by the odd couplings
His bed seeks with the corridor and staircase
The staircase branches out indefinitely
It leads to a millstone door it opens suddenly onto a public square
It’s made of swans’ backs an outstretched wing as the rail
It turns upon itself as if it’s going to bite itself
But no it’s content at the sound of our footsteps to open all its steps like drawers
Bread drawers wine drawers soap drawers ice drawers staircase drawers
Flesh drawers with handfuls of hair
At the hour when the ducks of Vaucanson preen their feathers
Without turning around you seized the trowel used for making breasts
We smiled at you you held us by the waist
And we assumed the positions of your pleasure
Motionless under our eyelids forever as woman loves to see man
After making love

André Breton

translation by Jack Hayes 

Image links to its source on the Facteur Cheval website. Facteur Cheval was in fact a historical figure; you can read more about him here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015



The sun,
the sun was with me ,
like a slender woman ,
in yellow shoes .

Twenty fathoms deep
lay my faith and love
like a two-toned blossom.

And the sun passed
over the unsuspecting blossom 
in yellow shoes.

Steinn Steinarr ("Solin" in the original Icelandic)
Translation by Sheila Graham-Smith © 2015

From Wikipedia:

Steinn Steinarr (born Aðalsteinn Kristmundsson, 13 October 1908 – 25 May 1958) was an Icelandic poet.

Many Icelanders regard Steinn Steinarr as their greatest poet, although he remains almost unknown outside of Iceland, due perhaps to a lack of effective translations of his poetry.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons  
Nature morte avec des tournesols sur un fauteuil (Still life with sunflowers on an armchair): Paul Gaugin. 1901. Public domain

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"I wonder…"

I wonder…

I wonder… What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
I wonder why my lip twitches like an involuntary Elvis impersonator
when I haven’t gotten enough sleep?
I wonder if Facebook has my photo on an ad for Steve Martin’s books?
I wonder if Steve Martin thinks of me whenever he sees an ad for Barbie Dolls?
I wonder why I can’t go a day without getting a notification
to update an app on my iPhone?
I wonder why my iPhone isn’t called a myPhone?
Isn’t “I” incorrect?
I wonder if 3M is working on an adhesive to mend a broken heart?
I wonder if “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”
can be translated into actual currency?
I wonder how many people hear that saying
and think it has to do with personal grooming?
I wonder how tall writer’s block is….
or if it’s measured like a city block?
I wonder why people made fun of my looks until Facebook came along in my 30s
and I wonder why all of a sudden I’m considered pretty?
I wonder if anyone’s 30-something brain can reconcile going from homely to pretty
in the span of a social media click?
I wonder if there’s an afterlife and if my father is hitting on Janis Joplin
and Helen of Troy…while secretly dating Natalie Wood?
If wonder if he’s proud of the person I’ve become?
I wonder if I’ll ever really trust anyone again?
I wonder why the family in Moonstruck puts sugar cubes in their champagne?
I wonder if wondering will become a lost art?
I wonder if smart phones and search engines will take away our wonder?
I wonder how many people remember the search engine Ask Jeeves
with the picture of a butler with the silver tray?
I wonder if Jeeves was based on the P.G. Wodehouse character and, if so,
how many people got the joke?
I wonder if I’m pro-noun-ciating Wodehouse correctly?
I wonder if a poem about wondering is anything anyone would want to publish?
I wonder, because my brain can’t help it.
I wonder because I know that I don’t know everything,
but something inside of me wishes that I did.
I wonder if wondering is what drives us forward?
I wonder if it would be easier if we were driving ourselves forward on bicycles
instead of cars?
I wonder if the feeling of actually pushing ourselves would spur us on?
I wonder if we would feel a sense of accomplishment from taking on such a task?
I wonder if our instantaneous gratification has taken away our chance at
pride in our work?
Pride in ourselves?
Pride in all that we can achieve as individuals?
Pride in the monumental change we can effect as a group?
I wonder this because I wonder why bad things happen all around me.
And I wonder what I can do as one small person.
One girl whose only gift is to make an audience laugh.
And then I wonder what will happen if I try to make things better, in some small way.
And then I wonder if anyone will even notice that I’m trying.
And then I wonder if they’ll want to help.
And then I wonder how we could have sat around before with doing anything?
Without even giving these problems a moment’s thought?
Without even trying to try?
Without even wondering?
And then I wonder…
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow
...because I refuse to search for the answer online.

Barbie Angell
© 2014

Inspired by a conversation with Worldchanging 101 author, David LaMotte.

Video of Barbie Angell's performance of "I Wonder" at the White Horse Black Mountain Slowhand Benefit by Kurt Loveland, & is used with his generous permission.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

“Perfect Day”

Some music for your Thursday.

While I’ve drifted away from rock music over the past 20 years or so, there are still seminal artists—artists who’ve inspired me on multiple level, including my poetry—to whom I still return. & two of those are Lou Reed & Patti Smith.

Certainly neither artists needs an introduction; Lou Reed’s work, both as a force in the Velvet Underground & in his long solo career, is some of the most compelling in the rock genre, both musically & lyrically. As far as Patti Smith goes, the same can be said. I still can remember a very early Saturday Night Live showing a video of her "Gloria In Excelsis," & I was immediately hooked in every way.

So it does make sense to pair the two—members of the New York punk rock scene, top-notch writers, true forces behind some of rock’s most genuine music. In this case, Patti Smith is covering the Reed song “Perfect Day.”

“Perfect Day” first appeared on Lou Reed’s 1972 Transformer album, released around the time of the Velvet Underground’s breakup—in fact four of the albums 11 tracks are songs performed by the Velvets (“Andy’s Chest”; “Satellite of Love”; “New York Telephone Conversation”; “Good Night Ladies”). Although Wikipedia states that “The song's lyrics are often considered to suggest simple, conventional romantic devotion,” this really strikes me as a huge over-simplification: if that’s the “meaning,” how does one account for “You just keep me hanging on” & “You’re going to reap just what you sow”? The vision seems to have a real underlying sadness & even darkness.

Others have conjectured that the song is about Reed’s heroin addiction, & while that is plausible, it certainly works as a song about the nuances & complications of love relationships.

The song has been covered a number of times, but Patti Smith’s version really cuts to the heart of the song’s sadness & complexity. Released on her 2007 album of cover songs, Twelve, Smith gives the song a deep & authoritative reading.


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons

"Patti Smith performing at the O2 Academy. Leeds, on Sunday the 9th of September 2012" by ManAlive!, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"A View of the Gulf"

A View of the Gulf

Fourth floor condo at the beach,
Kids bounce over waves,
parents standing guard
or reading under blue umbrellas.
Occasional walkers rush by,
or stroll, hunting shells.

Clouds of different shades of gray
watch at the horizon
as I watch from this side
the constant waves
lunging at the varied humanity below.

The clouds and waves could not care less.
I could not care more,
though I,
like them,
am helpless.

Carmen Leone
© 2015

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Lido Beach, Sarasota, Florida (c. 1930-1945); linen texture postcard
Posted by the Boston Public Library under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Tuesday, March 10, 2015



Under the encompassing heaven,
with a golden-white star,
I walk alone
through the night.

And the world is full of darkness,
revolving in circles
like a mill wheel .

And the world stands still
inside its circling
and heaven sinks
the companion star
like a warped pearl
in the water of darkness.

And the star and I
let us go silent and wondering
past each other
through the night.

Steinn Steinarr ("Ljóð" in the original Icelandic)
Translation by Sheila Graham-Smith © 2015

From Wikipedia:

Steinn Steinarr (born Aðalsteinn Kristmundsson, 13 October 1908 – 25 May 1958) was an Icelandic poet.

Many Icelanders regard Steinn Steinarr as their greatest poet, although he remains almost unknown outside of Iceland, due perhaps to a lack of effective translations of his poetry.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons   

"Moorkanal mit Torfkähnen" ("Moor Channel with Peat Barges"): Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1900
Public domain

Monday, March 9, 2015

Banjo Hitter #4 – The Softballs are Blooming Again

The old captain at third base during a practice this spring
Greetings, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, & before we get back into the usual run of poetry & music, I thought I’d bring you up to date on what’s going on in my world.

First, the Portland spring has come even earlier than usual. Typically the camellias & magnolias start blooming in mid to late February, with the cherries starting to come on in early March. Everything has been pushed up a couple of weeks this year, & it’s been great to enjoy all the blossoms as well as the unusual amount of sunshine & unusually warm temperatures. Yesterday the mercury almost rose to 80 degrees!

That said, it was a challenging winter physically. I suffered a bout of food poisoning during the holidays, & then came down with a nasty chest cold in early February. Since my lungs are already compromised by Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, it took me a long time to shake that, & indeed, today may be the first day I’ve felt completely back to normal.

But this only relates to the blog’s title by virtue of the fact that my softball team, the Underhanded Compliments, started practicing on February 15th, just a couple of days after I took sick, & I somehow managed to make it to the field every weekend—in fact, on both Saturday & Sunday the last couple of weeks!

Nothing says spring to me like the advent of softball & baseball. Standing on the infield dirt taking ground balls or taking swings on a real diamond as opposed to an indoor batting cage facility—these are as much the signs of spring for me as the cherry blossoms & the trill of the songbirds. While some friends have suggested that I might have been better served on at least a couple of those weekends by curling up on the couch with a book rather than being at the field, it really lifted my spirits to be out there.

The Underhanded Compliments will be starting their second year. For those who haven’t kept up with the softball news, it’s the team I captain (I also participate in an over-50 men’s league in the summer.) On this team, I’m the old man—probably a good 20 years older than the next oldest member of the team, & close to 35 years older than the youngest members. It’s a great group of folks, & I really feel it’s a privilege to be able to administer, manage & coach the team. & I also feel fortunate that I can still make positive contributions on the field—last year I did chip in with a .500 batting average over three seasons (spring, summer & fall.)

But mostly…well, you tell them about it, Jimmy: