Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #10

The first days after the fields are planted,
Peasant families all walk the river bank.
Young boys show off their strength,
Seeing who can climb the tallest trees.
Young girls sit with their mothers,
On bamboo mats in the grass.
Five old men sit on a rotten log,
Drinking cool wine and talking about the past.
All our sorrows and suffering,
Are merely paths to moments like these.

-龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls


An Earthy Consummation of the Love in My Heart

Adderall sunshine lights me up
Before a swift northeastern wind
Cools me under black clouds.
Aqua stains old poems
When Bedouin rain drops
Descend upon us from the dune like cumulus.
The dust and sweat of China
Wash down from the bill of my hat
Mixing in with the Georgia red
Like some earthy consummation
of the love in my heart for both.
Cold curtains wrap around me
Sending a shiver through me.
I was caught up in a poem
When God broke through
With a September ballad of his own,
Emptying the forests of people
With his stormy verse
Leaving it quiet in the aftermath,
Poking holes in the sky
Like punctuation marks
Turning my pages golden in the silence.


I’ve heard some say,
Some alive, some dead,
That they wished they could be
A wolf, an eagle, or a lion.
But I sit here on this rock,
Blood running strong in my veins,
Under the end of August sun,
A young man,
Free and with the world at my feet,
Tell me,
What more fantastic or wild thing
Could I ever wish to be?

Sunday Waters

On a Sunday by the water
Only the crickets make sound
And only the dragonflies know I’m here.
I go through my phone
And I realize there’s no one there
But I have my books
And I have my rock
By the old rotten tree
And I have a thousand songs
Memorized in my head,
Now, if only I spoke dragonfly.


River Haiku

This river is like
A woman. She holds my heart
in her throbbing hand.


My bare feet slip on the creekbed.
The water is the perfect temperature
And I’d jump right in
If it weren’t for the books and beer in my backpack.
My feet search cautiously for that foothold
Trying not to slice them right open.
This river’s bed is cruel to lovers too timid,
But she is sweet to my broken modern heart
Which is slowly immersed in her peaceful flow
Washing away all the trivial worries in my life
And I know now
Why God set aside a day of rest
And I thank him for this loyal friend
This wondrous river.

Like a Primitive Man

The rain comes down.
Torrential curtains beat across the water
Where I float,
In water warmed by the days sun,
And the rain stings my face.
The sky spits fire across the night
And the thunder sets all things on edge.
Do the birds and squirrels
Look out from the darkness
And wonder what madness grips me?
Lying in the pool like a fool.
The sky could strike me dead,
But I know it won’t
Because only I understand
Its wet and violent rage.
In awe of its power,
I soak in the danger,
Like a primitive man
From the dawn of time.

The Girl on the Rocks

I picture you…
Out on the hot rocks
Of a secluded canyon river
Shaded by the trees
And Promontories.
Your dress clinging loosely
To the curves of your body.
Your hair wrapping
Around the corners of your face
And sticking to your cheeks
From the heat
And the waterfall’s spray
Swirling up into the air
And resting lightly on your skin.
The water,
It sings to us,
And I long to touch you
And your wet black hair,
And to run my hands up your legs
And to kiss your mouth,
But this is just a picture.
I sit all alone,
With you,
Hundreds of miles away.

Country House

I planted a hundred mulberry trees
And thirty acres of rice.
Now I have plenty of silk and grain,
And can afford to entertain my friends.
In the spring I plant rice.
In the  Autumn I gather chrysanthemums
And perfume the  wine with their petals.
My wife enjoys being hospitable.
My children like to serve.
Late afternoon, we give a picnic
At the back of the overgrown garden
In the shade of the elms and  willows.
My friends drink until they are inspired.
The fresh breezes cool the heat of the day.
After everyone has gone home,
I want to walk out under the Milky Way,
And look up at the countless stars
That watch me from heaven.
I still have  plenty of jugs in the cellar.
Nobody will prevent me
From opening some more tomorrow.

-Ch’u Ch’uang I

This poem is an expression of exactly what I want out of life.

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth


The Signature of All Things (excerpt) Kenneth Rexroth

My head and shoulders, and my book
In the cool shade, and my body
Stretched bathing in the sun, I lie
Reading beside the waterfall —
Boehme’s “Signature of all Things.”
Through the deep July day the leaves
Of the laurel, all the colors
Of gold, spin down through the moving
Deep laurel shade all day. They float
On the mirrored sky and forest
For a while, and then, still slowly
Spinning, sink through the crystal deep
Of the pool to its leaf gold floor.
The saint saw the world as streaming
In the electrolysis of love.
I put him by and gaze through shade
Folded into shade of slender
Laurel trunks and leaves filled with sun.
The wren broods in her moss domed nest.
A newt struggles with a white moth
Drowning in the pool. The hawks scream,
Playing together on the ceiling
Of heaven. The long hours go by.
I think of those who have loved me,
Of all the mountains I have climbed,
Of all the seas I have swum in.
The evil of the world sinks.
My own sin and trouble fall away
Like Christian’s bundle, and I watch
My forty summers fall like falling
Leaves and falling water held
Eternally in summer air.

-Kenneth Rexroth

When We With Sappho – Kenneth Rexroth

“. . . about the cool water
the wind sounds through sprays
of apple, and from the quivering leaves
slumber pours down . . .”

We lie here in the bee filled, ruinous
Orchard of a decayed New England farm,
Summer in our hair, and the smell
Of summer in our twined bodies,
Summer in our mouths, and summer
In the luminous, fragmentary words
Of this dead Greek woman.
Stop reading. Lean back. Give me your mouth.
Your grace is as beautiful as sleep.
You move against me like a wave
That moves in sleep.
Your body spreads across my brain
Like a bird filled summer;
Not like a body, not like a separate thing,
But like a nimbus that hovers
Over every other thing in all the world.
Lean back. You are beautiful,
As beautiful as the folding
Of your hands in sleep.

We have grown old in the afternoon.
Here in our orchard we are as old
As she is now, wherever dissipate
In that distant sea her gleaming dust
Flashes in the wave crest
Or stains the murex shell.
All about us the old farm subsides
Into the honey bearing chaos of high summer.
In those far islands the temples
Have fallen away, and the marble
Is the color of wild honey.
There is nothing left of the gardens
That were once about them, of the fat
Turf marked with cloven hooves.
Only the sea grass struggles
Over the crumbled stone,
Over the splintered steps,
Only the blue and yellow
Of the sea, and the cliffs
Red in the distance across the bay.
Lean back.
Her memory has passed to our lips now.
Our kisses fall through summer’s chaos
In our own breasts and thighs.

Gold colossal domes of cumulus cloud
Lift over the undulant, sibilant forest.
The air presses against the earth.
Thunder breaks over the mountains.
Far off, over the Adirondacks,
Lightning quivers, almost invisible
In the bright sky, violet against
The grey, deep shadows of the bellied clouds.
The sweet virile hair of thunder storms
Brushes over the swelling horizon.
Take off your shoes and stockings.
I will kiss your sweet legs and feet
As they lie half buried in the tangle
Of rank scented midsummer flowers.
Take off your clothes. I will press
Your summer honeyed flesh into the hot
Soil, into the crushed, acrid herbage
Of midsummer. Let your body sink
Like honey through the hot
Granular fingers of summer.

Rest. Wait. We have enough for a while.
Kiss me with your mouth
Wet and ragged, your mouth that tastes
Of my own flesh. Read to me again
The twisting music of that language
That is of all others, itself a work of art.
Read again those isolate, poignant words
Saved by ancient grammarians
To illustrate the conjugations
And declensions of the more ancient dead.
Lean back in the curve of my body,
Press your bruised shoulders against
The damp hair of my body.
Kiss me again. Think, sweet linguist,
In this world the ablative is impossible.
No other one will help us here.
We must help ourselves to each other.
The wind walks slowly away from the storm;
Veers on the wooded crests; sounds
In the valleys. Here we are isolate,
One with the other; and beyond
This orchard lies isolation,
The isolation of all the world.
Never let anything intrude
On the isolation of this day,
These words, isolate on dead tongues,
This orchard, hidden from fact and history,
These shadows, blended in the summer light,
Together isolate beyond the world’s reciprocity.

Do not talk any more. Do not speak.
Do not break silence until
We are weary of each other.
Let our fingers run like steel
Carving the contours of our bodies’ gold.
Do not speak. My face sinks
In the clotted summer of your hair.
The sound of the bees stops.
Stillness falls like a cloud.
Be still. Let your body fall away
Into the awe filled silence
Of the fulfilled summer —
Back, back, infinitely away —
Our lips weak, faint with stillness.

See. The sun has fallen away.
Now there are amber
Long lights on the shattered
Boles of the ancient apple trees.
Our bodies move to each other
As bodies move in sleep;
At once filled and exhausted,
As the summer moves to autumn,
As we, with Sappho, move towards death.
My eyelids sink toward sleep in the hot
Autumn of your uncoiled hair.
Your body moves in my arms
On the verge of sleep;
And it is as though I held
In my arms the bird filled
Evening sky of summer.


Love this poem so much. It moves me deeply. I long for summer.