Late Gazing, Looking for an Omen as the Sun Goes

The window's dark. Roll back the curtain's waves.
What's to be done about sunsets?
Climb up and stand in some high place,
lusting for a little more twilight.

From a thousand houses' cooking fumes,
the Changes weave a single roll of silk.
Whose house, fire still unlit, so late?
Old crow knows whose, and why.

Golden tiles crowd, row on row:
men call this place the Filial Tombs.
Across the vastness, eyes wander:
grand pagoda: one wind-flickering flame.


When I meet a monk,
I bow politely.
When I see a Buddha,
I don't.

If I bow to a Buddha,
the Buddha won't know.
But I honor a monk:
he's here now, apparently,
or, at least, he seems to be.

Night Thought

Midnight, sudden jerk
Wordless. Heart still, sighs.

Tonight the frost's first fall,
that's all, and I
forgot to cover the houseplants.


Each year as the year's day passed
I've cocked my ear to hear
the fireworks pop, so sharp, so clear,
all through the night 'til dawn.

This year I didn't listen,
fearing the cock crow's news:
my sixtieth year.

The noise has died now,
to the sound of a page of the calendar turning.
A little time's left. Maybe, just a scrap?

The cock, at least, shows sympathy,
so slow to crow for me.
That's fine. I'll just go on
being fifty-nine.

Concious of Withering

"Oh, verily, I wither," said Confucious of himself,
and even a thousand of his words
aren't worth one picture of me.
Teeth falling out, the hair at my temples like feathers molting.
I drag my staff among the flowers,
squint right beneth the lamp at normal print,
inclined to forget what I know I ought to note,
grown accustomed to blithering on and one, and on.
"Ah, how it passes, it passes away," the stream
of life, I heard the master say.
And of the saying, "The older the better"?
Now that's a stupid one.

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