Sunday, May 24, 2020

Catch a Lift, Sad Butterfly, Drink Up

Who dares to live on Lonely Peak Mountain?
I never suggested a sacrifice,
A trade, an endless negotiation.
Those exchanges are between you and life.

When your markets are quiet—when you can
Breathe and feel more or less comfortable
In your skin—come and visit me again.
I’ll probably be out. I’m rarely in.

But you should get a taste of this mountain’s winds.
It’s not that they’re exceptionally clean,
Although they’re mostly clear and can be sweet.
It’s just that you could use the listen-in.

They’ll sweep bare whatever you have to say
To me, and whatever I have to say to you
They’ll carry away. That’s okay. I don’t
Mind watching words find wings and fly away.

Sit. Wait. There’s no merit in releasing
What someone else caught to sell you, thinking
To persuade you that merit could be bought.
On this mountain words fly through you. Wait. Watch.


Lin Bu imagined that his plum blossoms
Blooming while snow was still on their branches
Would have broken the hearts of butterflies
If the butterflies ever found out.

I imagine a distressed butterfly,
Pining for the blossoms that peaked too soon.
Isn’t that all regret is anyway?
Another form of wanting something

You can’t have because it’s in the past
And no action you take can bring it back.
Poor butterfly. Not that butterflies have
Hearts to break or bitter regrets to nurse.

Sometimes, I swear, we’re all still animists.
We were never nobly, spiritually
Aware of agency in all things—no,
We just thought a name made you one of us.

It does. We’re not much more than strings of names
Lost or passed on once our bodies are dust.
Lin Bu is a name, as is butterfly.
When Lin was more than a name, plum blossoms

On snowy branches nearly broke his heart.
Reading him in translation, it breaks this
Name I use for my heart I’ve never known
Those names he used for plum blossoms in snow.


One day Hanshan’s clear-eyed reader
And Lu You’s exceptionally patient one

Will meet over strong wine in wide bowls
And peruse these ghosts floating wherever

They have gotten to by then, and then
We’ll finally have our audience, won’t we?!

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