The Painting On The Wall

While at first sight it gives us

a mutilated Spring,

all shades of green splash together and merge,

trying hard to bring something into form.

Like a small river in a grove where

a tender-faced nymph appeared

one morning

and walked smoothly into a pool

of algae,

dreaming of her own mortality.

 

Silence is on the canvas but loud in the myth

preserved inside a memory.

The nymph, her nudity on the river bed,

iridescent, the color

of mother-of-pearl.

To P. Schief

Our stars are distant now, brother, 

they are fleeing from us like yesterday’s ambition, soon to be lost

in a used-up reality.

In this concrete jungle, like school children, hardly prepared 

for the whirlpool of life, we too thought youthful dreams could stay useful 

and ideals, time-worthy.

 

But we hang on to our pen, hour by hour, day by day,

walking on the streets where whores and beggars cut life

into poetry.

Sometimes death grabs one of them and crowns them in a faraway kingdom,

we marvel at the loss, 

we envy,

But we can’t turn blood into ink, 

But we can’t.

We are thirty years old, almost

time for whatever hidden seeds to sprout, almost

time for whatever hidden seeds inside us 

to sprout.

But we can’t turn blood into ink, my brother.

But we can’t.

We can only write and write, wringing the eternal from a pile of wastes.

 

On the empty streets they give us life and weep with us.

On the empty streets they give us death and laugh with us.

We take and take, hands full and empty, full and empty, 

until we think we have the world in our hands, a handful of dusts

on the last day of October, a burning October.

 

Our stars are distant now, brother,

the stars that guided us in the first thirty years of our life are fleeing 

into the next thirty years, if only in a fantasy.

But you and I, like school children, have a vision of the world 

where, like Ithaca, the treasure of the earth-and-heaven is given 

after a long long journey. Some reach it in a jet, 

while we must trek through swamps, rivers and even oceans.

We’ll be there, brother, we’ll be there!

 

Because we hang on to our pen, hour by hour, day by day…

Elegy In Five Stanzas

(I) Obscurity 

And here I am, 

an instant NOW drifting away into an obscure future, 

away like a swallow without eaves,

away like last years leaves finally forsaking their twigs.

 

I’m moved by a force not of the bang of the universe 

But of a whimper , a sigh, and a consoling whisper saying 

TOO LATE.

 

(II) Whimper

Yes hear the whimper in the morning , in the afternoon 

and in the evening ,

It goes on with the diminutive energy of an aging star ,

dimmed into the velvety universe.

 

I drive my car across half the city chasing a shadow 

more real than the flesh of many a man ,

And the discordant orchestra of the universe rattles my mind.

 

(III) Sailing Out

At 1 pm I go to bed and the darkness wraps me tight ,

I can finally sail out , sail out 

to the open sea where the water trembles hard 

as if in an intercourse before the final outburst.

 

And the whimper continues, the sound of a dying siren.

I set my boat to the uncharted course,

there’s no returning.

 

(IV) Salvation

The incense burns late in this grand temple

by the sea where the sea is muzzled , tamed.

I stand at the wooden gate studded with gold, 

knowing not if I should go in, hesitant like a schoolboy.

Busy tourists swarm around the goddess

and wave entrance tickets like praying flags.

 

30RMB, that’s the price for salvation.

 

(V) Oblivion

In the end life is like a blank page, 

Man scribbles and hopes one day,

It’ll turn into a novel or poem, admired by many.

But It’s his own eulogy for no audience.

 

The swan song is the empty space between lines

which has already transmuted into his being.

A Dialogue

There’s too much of yourself in your poems,

says the great master,

too much obsession,

look away from your body , look away and forget

the flesh that tethers you to the earth.

A falcon can only fly higher

when he forgets his own weight.

but, my master,

says the young man who comes to seek wisdom

in poetry,

I have only my eyes to see, my hands to touch

and almost too anxious a heart to feel,

without the feeling of the wind

it is not, for a falcon, flying.

The master nods and smiles,

The wind shall remember the flying.

 

Happily, the young man walks down the mountain

where the road bifurcates into the wilderness.

 

Three Stanzas

1.

The morning heat is breaking through the window

and warping the dream into a hot reality.

He stirs; his watch ticks while his heart beats

unrythmically to the moaning summer –

it’s dying in the yard.

A florist is arranging some yellow flowers.

2

So the god arranges the scorching east wind

for us all in the city or in villages;

He also sends in silence with the tolling of bells.

Behind each mottled wall there’s thick smog

that people breathe,

and a murmuring crowd squat at the gate.

3.

The asphalt road is gleaming like black ice,

people built huts around it, ugly huts that stretch out

like alm-asking palms.

It’s not Jerusalem,

It’s not Lumbini,

It’s the consecrated slum we call life.

Persist and live,

for a cloud of dew will come in the heat of the harvest time.