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