Tuesday, August 30, 2016

esplanade octet

(Portland, Oregon, August 2016)

blighted leaves fringing sky, the ash trees
catch dazzling glints above the river—

no other life at this moment: Steel
Bridge casts violet shadows on ripples—

buddleja blossoms draw a golden
hum of bees but not one butterfly—

a fish breaks open the black water,
vanishes: such brief transit through light

Jack Hayes
© 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ullambana 2016

Ullambana 2016
August 17, 2016

airplanes in the north: crimson & golden sparks:
apparition of the Big Dipper hovers dim—
but all seven planets burning burning white without
         paper boat burned to cinders on black
Willamette waters: all hiss & flash &
tea rose eruption—

           crickets chirping deep in
sweet pea clematis grape vines on Vancouver

            these can’t be the only voices;
sunflower looming beside the dark sidewalk
gazes east

           —the final three days you didn’t speak—
yesterday evening a porch on hospital grounds
a green magnolia breeze those white roses gone
to rust in August—

                         the train crossing night’s water,
the Steel Bridge black skeletal hulk—
                                                           talking to
you in my sleep you answer me:
                                                don’t call anymore
it was the first time you came back   
& as spring blossomed just weeks after your death
an unilluminated city block offered me this
glimpse of the Milky Way as if through a picture window
facing west throughout eternity: I can’t
grasp that depth of silence
                       the little league diamond’s
amber lights glow among sycamore leaves shine against
empty green bleachers
                                     on the sere parking strip
Queen Anne’s Lace mirrors the moon waits for heat
tomorrow to spawn its flock of cabbage whites
to say goodbye to say goodbye the last time again

Jack Hayes
© 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

magpie bridge immortals

magpie bridge immortals

for Sheila

as delicate clouds form subtle shapes,
as a shooting star transmits regret,
in secret they cross the remote Heavenly River—

golden wind & jade dew come together
eclipsing this human world’s countless meetings—

their feelings gentle as water,
this auspicious time like a dream; then
they endure the journey back over the magpie bridge—

when two share feeling across long ages
why need they dwell together
every morning & night, every night & morning?

Jack Hayes
© 2016
based on Qin Guan:
què qiáo xiān

Notes: This poem by Song Dynasty poet Qin Guan is based on the mythical story of Zhinü the Weaver Girl (also the star Vega) & Niulang the cowherd (Altair).  Although these lovers are separated on the opposite sides of the heavens, they are able to cross the Celestial River (the Milky Way) once a year on a bridge of magpies. Their yearly reunion is celebrated by the Qixi Festival, also known as the Double Seventh, as it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (in 2016, August 9th).

“Golden wind” is traditionally symbolic of a man, while “jade dew” is symbolic of a woman. Both also symbolize autumn. (per Tony Barnstone & Chou Ping)

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
The reunion of the couple of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd on the bridge of magpies. Artwork in the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Photograph by Wiki user Shizhao 

Public domain.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Visiting the Chinese Gallery - Theories of Accommodation

Visiting the Chinese Gallery - Theories of Accommodation

Shan shui - water and cloud just a dearth of ink:
smudged impressions of a remembered landscape.

Dong’s scroll – darkened silk, monochrome pigment:
time and loss -  departing geese, a gathering storm.

Spouted bronze vessel in a glass case - two li 
of joy, ten of regret, and the wine long gone.

© 2016

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

"Along the Riverbank" – Dong Yuan
sometime before 962 CE
Public domain

Thursday, August 4, 2016

visiting Daitianshan’s Daoist master but not finding him

visiting Daitianshan’s Daoist master but not finding him

barking dogs heard amid the sound of water;
peach blossoms are heavy-laden with dew—
deep in the trees, waiting for a glimpse of deer;
a mountain creek, no noon bell can be heard—
the wild bamboo splits a blue haze;
swift springs divide the jade peaks—
he’s absent, & no one knows where he’s gone:
fretful, I trust to two or three pines

Jack Hayes
© 2016
Li Bai:
făng dàitianshān dàoshi bùyù

Notes: There's a whole genre of poems from Classical Chinese literature devoted to visiting a hermit, often but not always a Daoist master, who is absent from his lodgings. Translator Arthur Cooper in his Li Po and Tu Fu volume discussed how the absent master is “teaching” through his very absence—to observe what is present, not to focus on what one is “looking for.” Cooper connects this with Wittgenstein’s dictum “Don’t think: look!” but it’s also very much a part of Daoist & Chan Buddhist thought.

“visiting Daitianshan’s Daoist master but not finding him” is thought to be one of Li Bai’s earliest poems. David Hinton dates it to 701 CE.

As always, many thanks to Sheila Graham-Smith for her help & insights. She pointed out that the pines the poet “trusts to” or “relies on” are symbols of both eternity & steadfastness.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

萬壑松風 (Wind in Pines Among a Myriad Valleys): Li Tang; 1124. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk.
Public domain.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

wishing tree sutra

for Barbie

somewhere between the city park’s
sycamores & the
           corner market’s brick walls a
chestnut grows festooned with frail
                                    white flowers
in April, spiked fruit come July,
            year-round manila
tags passersby tie to generous limbs you’ve
never seen being as you’re
           thousands of miles east of the moon &
these few stars in a city sky I have to
wish on—
             you in combat boots & tulle,
bleached hair streaked cerulean, black eyeliner:
another performance—
                                  this chestnut, the
trunk black, bark rugged, sculpted,
topographic—you sick with migraine &
life but sticking, sticking—abides across
changes, never identical never not—
                                                in your poem
a girl shedding teardrops & teardrops next to
a wishing tree drawn in colored
                                               pencils, &
soon enough chestnuts shall

          atavistic creatures on autumn’s
reflective wet sidewalks & sure,
                        a big moon weeps too:
we’re never here always there

Jack Hayes
© 2016