Landscape With Fishermen
by Tsubaki Chinzan
By the middle of the nineteenth century
the fishermen are old.
The landscape they inhabit
back far enough to start
where earth and sea infuse
the white of heaven.
The movement of the baskets to the water,
the hearty strokes, the casting
of wide nets
have now been repeated so often
that arthritic hands
no longer move
to clever minds.
These fishermen grasp each other slowly.
and they dream.
from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Alchemy (1982)
The Northern Sea
by Chou Ch'en
A blast of Arctic cold
turning calm seas
their scales shine
in the dead light of winter afternoons;
they hiss and fume
spitting liquid fire.
So, too, my mind:
cold anger, fiery despair!
I shall never find my retreat
in the Southern Mountains.
from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first printed in Mr. Cogito (Winter, 1982)
"Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it." George Santayana
Red brick arches
and tiled roofs
still bathe in the sun
still float on L.A. smog.
Near dusty eucalyptus
they dream of Romanesque Italy
despite construction noisy
and the loss of motif
in on-going additions.
I dream back to a time
when protests were buoyant here:
teach-ins, sit-ins, love-ins,
mostly below a gothic Kirkoff Hall,
on the grass,
now called Meyerhoff Square
in memory of the professor of philosophy
who warned us not to trust the so-called experts.
Greater floods were coming from the North:
at Berkeley, in cooler air,
from the brittle bow of Sather Gate
to the white steps of Sproul
under a piercing campanile,
they were sailing toward revolution.
But at that peak the tides were receding,
the winds shifting:
Meyerhoff died in '65;
Reagan was elected governor, Kerr fired.
Then came assassinations, suicides and bombings.
The draft ended,
and years later the war.
I remember the death march for Martin Luther King:
we ambled around campus
and broke up
at a newly-constructed fountain--
it flowed down
instead of shooting up.
from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Poetry/L.A. (edited Helen Friedland, Sep. 1981)
Against the Anniversary of Our Extinction
closely after W.S. Merwin and for Jonathan Schell
Every year without knowing it we may have passed the day
When the last fires would wave us
And silence would set in
An epochless traveler
Like the blast of a lifeless star
Then we would no longer
Find ourselves in light as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love among humans
And the danger of their betrayal
As today rewriting after a night of rain
Hearing the finches sing and the falling continue
And thankful not knowing to whom
from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Portland Review (Fall, 1982),
reprinted in The Rhysling Anthology, ed. Robert Frazier (1983).
Buying New Shoes
You keep having to go back:
the paunchy man in the pin-striped suit
never stops talking to your mother;
he measures your heel,
deftly corners the knuckle of your
big toe, and
reads out loud the number (somewhere between 5 and 9).
He's up quickly for a moment
behind a curtain, pulling at boxes,
fresh tissue paper crackles whitely
as the new shoes appear--
not a scuff mark anywhere, not even on the soles,
With the force of a horn to the heel
your foot squeezes inside tough leather;
then his furious fingers follow,
lacing and tying.
Straddled as he is
on what seems like the top of a very small slide,
you're afraid you might kick him in the balls
as he tugs one last time to cinch the knot.
Then it's time to parade
up to the windows and back to the mirrors.
And he never stops talking to your mother.
He used to have a machine you could stand on
if you wanted to watch your toes wiggle
in your shoes--small twiggy bones, ghoulish green, empty flesh.
It was done with x-ray.
Those machines were the first to go. revised, from A Hollow of Waves
Our Late Jeopardy
A storm played against our coast
all weekend. It never rested
from its divisive game of wind
and water. It wanted to give up
the tiresome sport of daily gusts,
showery finesse. It moved in on us
at night when it thought we might not
notice any double dealings, premeditated
parries and thrusts. It woke us
up long after dark, wading
in passion outside our doors.
Power lines came down and branches
borne out of trees. But, holding out
our hands, we remembered other angles,
moves of our own. We employed
what we had of life, of bluff and
desire, and we weathered its feints
against our windowpanes. from A Hollow of Waves (1983)