the burden of ghosts

how much burden do the ghosts of everyday scars
         carry?    the faint smell of their nonpresence is

all it takes to weigh down their mourn     theirs
          is the past and the circle    theirs is the next

day and the next rounding off the circle      the scars
          of nonbeing go about their childlike ways

tracking noons fearing the thought of the coming
          dark and the next     & the weight of it all - 

In gorges, dragons voice age-old explanations.
In pools ten hundred feet deep, you hear them.

Cruel waves keep strict accounts, drinking
blood to nurture children and grandchildren,

but without ancient Kao Yao’s gentle justice,
feasting on prison-drowned spirits is empty.

Something there, mystery haunting darkness,
the futile talk of ghosts goes on and ever on,

gorges hearing cascades cry lament, gorges
mourning widowed gibbons. There’s nothing

human in the sound of gorges, gorges where
blades of churning water slice at themselves,

and now, sage hearts all hidden away here,
who marshals these bitter and drowned pleas?

- Meng Chiao, from Laments of the Gorges

the loneliness of Meeraji

what seeks the would of war, the hallowed gorge1 &
           spill of light in want of
           light?2    the seethe that seeks

the feel of night      furiously free, joyously I3
          seek alone the crux of
          flight    who seeks the should of war?

(1)
Who can welcome laments of the gorges,
gorges saying What will come will come.
- Meng Chiao, from "Laments of the Gorges"

(2)
I hear it singing, / I sit up, awake. / It is a mountain rising, / lovely and immense.
I see myself / in the shine of it / and I want light.
I am full / with greed. Give to me
light.
– Linda Hogan

(3)
maiN hooN aazaad —- mujhe fikar naheeN hai koi
aik ghanghor sakooN, aik kaDi tanhaai
mera andoKhta hai –
– Meeraji

The five dawns of Meng Chiao

Trees lock their roots in rotted coffins
And the twisted skeletons hang tilted upright:
Branches weep as the forest perches
Mournful cadences, remote and clear.


from ‘Sadness of the Gorges’

1.
I take the wooden chimes, breathe in the salt of an ancient wine, prepare for flight, wary of a few wayward ants gnawing at the base of my poems, as if their ghosts were larger than their pretense.

The rocks are steep, the path turns off course.
When the evening chimes send off the departing guest
The notes I count drop from the farthest sky.

from “And Excursion to the Dragon Pool Temple on Chung-nan”

2.
The loud screech mulls what is possible: could the lament be more careful and could the wine see more than what the ink allows?

The wind which roams without design
Cleanses of passion’s transient strife.

from “Stopping on a Journey at the East Water Pavilion at Lo-ch’eng”

3.
It is not strife that leaves its mark but the bluntness of the unsheathed sword. We can tell this by the stained parchment’s lonely strains.

These times, the traveler’s heart
Is a flag a hundred feet high in the wind.

from “On Mount Ching”

4.
I grit my teeth amidst the ice-mountain and the fire-sea, and what do I see but the wind sawing through the grain of my lost poems.

Who will say that the inch of grass in his heart
Is gratitude enough for all sunshine of spring?

from “Wanderer’s Song”

5.
Night is not just possible, it is dread. And day is the mere blight of sun that wore itself down in a hurry to meet the impending made possible, made true in the image of night.


Note: All five excerpts are taken from A.C. Graham’s Poems of the Late Tang.