WITH WANG WEI
for Tim Applegate
Your heart in middle-age found the Way.
You came to dwell at the foot of a mountain.
Did you ever meet the old woodcutter,
talk and laugh and never return?
In later age my heart twists many ways.
I do not wander trails alone like you.
Finding beauty, I stop and point,
Knowing anything I say falls short.
We may have no river like the River Han,
Swollen by tributaries, running beyond heaven and earth.
Along the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette
Spring shimmers in water, air, fragile leaves.
Stand here now, help me count the greens,
Describe ten-thousand supple moves
An undammed river makes, flowing from that deep
pulsing heart in the mountains, Waldo Lake.
You did not know the way to the temple,
Walking beneath mountain clouds,
Until you heard the bell, the splash of water.
Then you knew you could climb free of your dragon self.
In Oregon, fire lookouts top rocky summits,
Mostly abandoned, some carted off years ago,
Concrete footings mark the site—
Breezes playing about my head, wide outlooks few will see.
Did you think your prince heard you,
Urging him to govern wisely, earn fame?
You addressed him from the mountain,
Whose trees touched heaven that night of rain,
Should I find a high platform
To tell my president to end our wars
In deserts where bones litter yellow dust.
Would he listen any better than your prince listened to you?
As years passed, you asked for peace,
Freedom from ten-thousand matters.
You always asked and answered the same:
What can be better than coming home?
Today ponderosa shade cools my brow.
Up here the moon will rise unobstructed.
When I drive back along the Middle Fork,
A fisherman is standing in churning water.
Through river valleys, up mountain peaks,
Wang Wei, you were a genial pilgrim.
You sought peace and claimed to find it,
Desired to carry it back to capital and court.
Help me be quiet, like you, in body and mind,
Sensing the quick shiver of wing or leaf,
Heartened by the voice of a street-corner song
Or by a credible call to action at city hall.
***In response to and using lines from Wang Wei,
translated by Witter Bynner, The Jade Mountain, pp193-95.