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Author of this poem:

Robert Rhodes (Yao Xin)
(July 27, 2005)

A Selection of Poems

Sleeping Dragon (Wolungsza, Poshulin Road, Xian)
Student: Tell us, Master, did an empty cloud pass this way?
Wei-kuo: Piss on the snow and you'll see it dissolve.

Doing Zen
flat on your crooked back,
courtesy of the crazy Red Guards,
you have had ample opportunity,
even in your old city pagoda,
to inspect the numberless heavens --
even the most distant stars
have left their coronas
as flowers for your eyes by now --
you grasp not only
Pleiades and Pole Star
but suns and galaxies,
the silent mandalas
the ancients knew by heart --
Sleeping Dragon,
bless your afflictors --
if they someday return
bless them when they beat you down --
get up again
and thank them for the stars,
for the unexpected snow
on the temple roof

Santoka Taneda (1882-1940), a Wandering Haiku Poet, Walks Away from His Hermitage

Santoka Santoka Taneda


with geta and robe and wornout rakusu
this squandered monk
takes to the Ogori Road:
leaving Gochu-an, where will
you procure your sake, wifeless nomad,
gather birch twigs for a fire --
where will you beg rice,
a shriveled sardine, just enough
to keep you walking on
this side of the blessed Tao --

speaking of which:

when night falls
like approaching blindness,
is the Way any closer than
these scattered galaxies
or is it lost
like you on your unknown path,
with geta and robe and begging bowl
drenched with summer rain
that blew in last night
from the Sea of Japan


sleeping in the wild grass
beneath haunted branches of
persimmon trees,
you shiver in the growing dusk:
what insight is required
to propagate these inexplicable dharmas:
of isolation,
of crude hunger,
of the road to the Inland Sea --
or do they defy your brush and ink,
your deft introspection,
silent and gliding
among clouds


drunken sage: your broad straw hat
covers sun and moon, even
these continents we inhabit
of indigo mountains and their shadows --
when you quietly sit
at the side of the path,
you breathe the essences of
cedar wind
and the unseen ocean
down to the last sentient
fish --

Zen priest: what poem, what prayer
have you exhaled today?
in your empty net
are how many delicious perch?

for now, tonight, this hunger subsides

A Stand of Cedars

offering cedarwood incense
on New Year's Day
I imagine where ancient
cedar trees grew:
the fields, the clearings,
the bridges and wagon paths
used by long-departed
farmers and woodcutters --
from another century I see
a fresh row of saw-hewn timber,
rice and barley sprouting and
women in straw hats
amid a blue maze of tea bushes --
one turns from the others
to glimpse who I am:
the interloper, the pale fictitious
stranger: as if to say:

so much for these dreamlike trees,
for farmers you don't know except
by their anonymous fences, their subtle
furrows incised on Earth's shoulder --

what is there to know:
what obtuse riddle?

Humming Bird

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