purse mouth, purse king

Purse mouth, purse king, pure
deed of the

totally ravenous     rage heart
rage sing, rage

sun of the morning need     purse
shoe, purse

heart, sure song of an unwilled
sage     sage

who? sage mouth, says I of the
hunger raw –

SHEPHERD’S-PURSE by Mei Yao-Ch’en (1002-1060)

People call shepherd’s-purse food of poverty,
think it’s shameful. But I call it a rare treat.

I’ve watched families gather shepherd’s-purse.
They start at National Gate and head south:

carrying lean iron knives, blades rust-eaten,
frost-battered baskets of azure-green bamboo,

they go plodding out, deep into frozen land,
and scrape around there for roots and leaves.

Hands so raw they can’t feed themselves, they
live in hunger, and you’re ashamed to eat it?

Dining on juicy lamb and red-tailed fish, fine
fragrant meats—that, that’s what poverty is.

earth’s ten thousand holes cry and moan

A thousand seething waves sweeping my
gate-path clean

The wind as ruin, no trace of heart, no
wander in the

Bowl of heaven and no one comes here
to visit     just

Some brambles scattering my thoughts
are welcomed –

(More than half of the above – including the title – is straight off or slightly changed from two of Wang An-Shih’s poems translated by David Hinton. Those lines are highlighted below.)

Wang An-Shih‘s poems

Together we climb to this East Ridge lookout on New Year’s Eve
and gaze at the Star River, its length lighting distant forests.

Earth’s ten thousand holes cry and moan. That wind’s our ruin,
and in a thousand seething waves, there’s no trace of a heart.


In bamboo forest, my thatch hut’s among stone cliff-roots.
Out front, through thin bamboo, you can glimpse a village.

I doze all day, all idleness. And no one stops by here to visit.
Just this spring wind come sweeping my gate-path clean.

the poet fiddles

the poet fiddles while the home
burns      fidgets

perhaps      conscience is nuanced
away as neur-

ons vie for supremacy: the ice of
pallor baked

into instinctive reprieve – that is
how you con

science into a cozy little corner of
avowed disbelief –

minding the winter

Ague to penance, the variability
of becoming

Chance – where is probable cause
whose house

Burns when time rethinks its traj-

Who takes to minding the
winter when

All that is knowledge is crafted
in syllable

Of retirement, pause & a fanatic

the terrifying magnanimity of sagehood

Does earth thrive on the kindness of the
bear I pray

it does     does its salt bring the keenness
of its blurry

heart to play I pause     does its tremble
bleed only

worn drops of the moon I light the stolen
candle & look

I as fool am forgotten the
sage acts

with the kindness of the knife

as if forgotten but at times
remembers &


I cannot let metaphor be steel, it has to
breathe among

roots     cannot let word be an adminstra-
tive assistant

its care is not about wondering flight but
more care

I cannot let song be the slide-rule     its dig-
itization is

sapping the ocean of worry     & that makes
it less supple –

as i flit from flower to flower i
see i am not bird or bee but the
why of the street song as
it meets the unsought child as
churn the repetitive recitation of
how the why should be such & so –


“Heaven is my father and earth is my mother, and I, a small child, find myself placed intimately between them.
What fills the universe I regard as my body; what directs the universe I regard as my nature.
All people are my brothers and sisters; all things are my companions.”

– Zhang Zai

Is it opportune to call the sun?

Is it opportune to call the sun and then
behead the moon?

what does not taste of morning will not
bake your thoughts

as you tire of the rains, but you can never
be sure of this –

to be sure, build your canoe & set it on
fire – you can then

watch the sea burn with the want of an antelope
tired after the hunt –

the mist of being sure is ahead of the moon
and you can then

call the sun & cry till your heart is dry –