You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.

Isabella Rossellini as a spider

This is just too entertaining to pass up: Isabella Rossellini has gone public with her ongoing fascination regarding the sex life of insects. Put together as a series of shorts called Green Porno, the project features the beautiful Isabella herself playing a variety of insects in their mating glory. My favorites: Worms, whose plethora of equipment (they are hermaphrodites) puts on quite a show; and the Praying Mantis, whose head eating during the act of sex is compellingly portrayed.

Sundance Channel

(Thank you to the ever-resourceful Sally Reed for sending this link to me.)

A Bowl of Warm Air

Someone is falling towards you
as an apple falls from a branch,
moving slowly, imperceptibly as if
into a new political epoch,
or excitedly like a dog towards a bone.
He is holding in both hands
everything he knows he has—
a bowl of warm air.

He has sighted you from afar
as if you were a dramatic crooked tree
on the horizon and he has seen you close up
like the underside of a mushroom.
but he cannot open you like a newspaper
or put you down like a newspaper.

And you are satisfied that he is veering towards you
and that he is adjusting his speed
and that the sun and the wind and rain are in front of him
and the sun and the wind and rain are behind him.

–Moniza Alvi

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan but moved to England when she was a small child. In 2002 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry. This is another poet I found during my visit to England last month.

What a lush image: “He is holding in both hands/everything he knows he has—/a bowl of warm air”….

A rich trove of wisdom arrived in the form of comments to my posting on June 11 about the Nicholas Carr article in the Atlantic (See below.) The issues raised by that piece are an ongoing concern for anyone who lives a rich life both online and in the flesh version.

Rick Mobbs, a visual artist like me, articulated a response to that post that closely mirrors my own feelings. He speaks to some of the themes of the rhizome that I find so compelling in Gilles Deleuze’s writings (primarily A Thousand Plateaus.) It also addresses my ongoing personal struggle with finding a balance between how to navigate the information space where we oscillate constantly between the desire to drill down deep on the vertical axis and our attraction to the wide expanse of the horizontal surface. I thought Mobbs’ comment was worth highlighting here.

I have become a skimmer, a gleaner, picking through left-overs, a magpie, collecting shiny things. I think I would have to choose the life of a contemplative to go as deeply into things as I would like. It isn’t just in my reading but the whole of my life. Too many things to do, too little time, an awareness that the answer is to sit still but the pace is addictive and the life one of wonder anyhow so I’m not complaining. I catch what I can on the run I am on, and boy am I on a run.

The compensations are renewed and keen awareness of interconnectedness, of synchronicity, propinquity, serendipity, of the play of grace, intuition, kinship with our fellows, a certainty – for myself anyway – of the reality of callings, promptings, spiritual nudges, subtle touches and tenderings…

For me, I don’t think there is any going back. It is too late. Now I have to choose the life I have, co-operate with it, be an active partner with the things that are steering me so that I may steer with as little resistance as possible toward the goals and life I feel are right for me. I believe I have to take an active interest and try to co-operate with an evolutionary trend, and try cultivate a sense humor about it all and a sense of curiosity about how it is all going to turn out. That said, I don’t know anything except by feeling my way through it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon after having renewed my relationship with their poetry this weekend (See the posting below, The Third Thing.) I posted a poem by Hall yesterday that he wrote during her illness, but thought Kenyon deserved a few of her own too.

As Donald Hall wrote in The Third Thing, “poetry embodies the complexities of feeling at their most intense and entangled, and therefore offers (over centuries, or over no time at all) the company of tears.”

Here are two by Kenyon, each with their own blending of the melancholy and sorrow of life with a celebration of it (or in the second poem, a celebration of life after life.) Both moved me deeply this morning.


There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Notes from the Other Side

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

When I started this blog in 2006, I did not anticipate how deeply satisfying it would be to develop companionship around content that matters to me. Sharing visual art and poetry are gestures that happen best outside of time, ones that are well suited for the disembodied 24/7 nature of cyberspheric reality. Discovery in this venue is much less invasive and more self-directed than getting a phone call from me at 2AM saying, “You have to see (or read) this!”

Connection based on content matters to me, even more than I had supposed. So of course I was thrilled when my new poetry pal Pam McGrath sent me some excerpts from an article, The Third Thing, by Donald Hall.

The relationship between two extraordinary poets, Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, has become something of a legend in the world of contemporary poetry. There are many salient narratives in the story of their life together: The theme of two artists supporting each other’s work; the challenge of two highly individualistic people cohabiting with respect and kindness for each other; the burden of extreme suffering and grief (Hall had several bouts of cancer, and Kenyon suffered from depression. Eventually it was leukemia that ended her life); the ongoing longing for meaning, authenticity, expression. In speaking of this extraordinary marriage as its sole survivor, Hall exudes dignity and grace. I love his concept of the “third thing”, which of course can take so many forms in a relationship.

Thank you Pam, for this and for being such an engaging fellow traveler.

What we did: love. We did not spend our days gazing into each other’s eyes. We did that gazing when we made love or when one of us was in trouble, but most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing. Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment. Each member of a couple is separate; the two come together in double attention. Lovemaking is not a third thing but two-in-one. John Keats can be a third thing, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or Dutch interiors, or Monopoly…

Meantime we lived in the house of poetry, which was also the house of love and grief; the house of solitude and art; the house of Jane’s depression and my cancers and Jane’s leukemia. When someone died whom we loved, we went back to the poets of grief and outrage, as far back as Gilgamesh; often I read aloud Henry King’s “The Exequy,” written in the seventeenth century after the death of his young wife. Poetry gives the griever not release from grief but companionship in grief. Poetry embodies the complexities of feeling at their most intense and entangled, and therefore offers (over centuries, or over no time at all) the company of tears. As I sat beside Jane in her pain and weakness I wrote about pain and weakness. Once in a hospital I noticed that the leaves were turning. I realized that I had not noticed that they had come to the trees. It was a year without seasons, a year without punctuation. I began to write “Without” to embody the sensations of lives under dreary, monotonous assault. After I had drafted it many times I read it aloud to Jane. “That’s it, Perkins,” she said. “You’ve got it. That’s it.” Even in this poem written at her mortal bedside there was companionship.

From Donald Hall’s poetry volume, “Without”:

Her Long Illness

Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced; he worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
When it snowed one morning Jane gazed
at the darkness blurred
with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurse’ pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.

This is Part 2 of a highlighted version of J. K. Rowling’s Commencement Address delivered at Harvard on June 5, 2008.

In this section Rowling focuses on the importance of imagination and takes a different approach than I would have expected. She correlates imagination with empathy, placing its power in that larger context of the community of all humankind. This is not the traditional endorsement of the individualistic creativity of the artist working as a soloist; it is a challenge to move imagination into the domain of changing the world by changing yourself.

Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared…

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.
One of the many things I learned…was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing…

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Maybe it is because Harvard has planetary status in the Boston/Cambridge area, but it seems everyone is still talking about J. K. Rowling’s commencement address last week. Her topic–“The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” is delicious just in its titular power. But the speech (which you can read or watch at Harvard Magazine) has lots of wisdom to offer even if failure and Harvard are hard for some people to place in the same sentence.

Of course some of the graduates took umbrage at the choice of having the author of a series of children’s books as the keynote at a school that, according to some students interviewed on NPR, was used to hearing from the intellectually gifted and powerful, like Madeleine Albright. (We won’t even go there, not now anyway.) But most people I know who heard her were moved by her message.

I’m excerpting a few paragraphs about failure. I’ll highlight her second theme, imagination, in tomorrow’s post.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

Nancy Spero, currently on view at the MOMA in New York


is the body’s way
of weeping, after a series
of shocks is suffered, after the thrust
of things, the gist of things, becomes
apparent: the bolt is felt completely
swollen in vicinity to wrench,
the skid is clearly headed
toward an all-out insult, and the senses
one by one abandon all their stations—
into smaller hours and thinner
minutes, seconds
split—til POW—
you had it, had it coming, and it heaved, whose participle
wasn’t heaven.
Was that.
And when you got

some senses back,
you asked yourself, is this
a dignified being’s way
of being born? What
a thought
somebody had! (or some no-body)

out of the breathless blue, making us
double up like this, half gifted and
half robbed. ‘Rise up to me,’ the spirit

laughed. ‘I’m
coming, I’m coming,’
the body sobbed.

–Heather McHugh

Heather McHugh, born in California and raised in rural Virginia, studied with Robert Lowell during the time he taught poetry at Harvard.

About her work she has said, “I write because I want to find out what was bothering me . . . I’m not sure what it is that wants to be said, but I’m there to be its scribe…Almost always I’ve seen some pattern. Then comes a rocking and a humming. I find language to document that play of patterns in the world.”

(I especially like the part, “then comes a rocking and a humming.” Ah, yeah…!)

I just returned from a few days in New York City. I only did about half of what I had intended. When it is over 100 degrees, the walkability of that city drops into negative numbers. Is it just me or do mental functions slow down for all humans in that kind of heat?

And speaking of mental functions, there is a great article in the latest Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by smart guy Nicolas Carr (who rocked the IT smart set in 2004 with his book Does IT Matter? setting off a worldwide debate about the role of computers in business, a topic still being argued today.)

He’s a facile writer with a clear thinking mind. And I am particularly impressed that Carr chose to quote one of my favorite playwrights (and in the view of some, a way way out kind of guy) Richard Foreman who phrased his ideal in a beautiful turn of phrase—“the complex, dense and ‘cathedral-like’ structure of the highly educated and articulate personality.” As Foreman posits, we need the “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance” or we turn into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.” It is a visceral and apt metaphor.

Much of what Carr says could be viewed as slightly tilted toward the Luddite. But at this point, being a Luddite might be the more progressive position any of us can take. In this world, everything is being skewed, where up is now down, in is now out. Being a Luddite in this manner might be similar to the artist who eschews the contemporary rhetoric and au courant posturing, choosing instead to be silent—which may be the most powerfully subversive position of all.

I’m only excerpting a few highlights below, so go to the link above if you are interested in getting the entire experience. And given his arguments, you might be guilted into taking the full read…

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets—reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”…

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works…

Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure…the assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling. It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction…

Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman eloquently described what’s at stake:

“I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and ‘cathedral-like’ structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the ‘instantly available.'”

As we are drained of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance,” Foreman concluded, we risk turning into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”

I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

Ho Xuan Huong (written here without the diacritical marks, so my apologies to any Vietnamese readers) was an 18th century Vietnamese poet whose works were recently translated into English by the poet John Balaban. Ho Xuan Huong was well educated, but due to family circumstances including her father’s early death, her options were limited. She was a concubine (a second wife) like her mother, a situation she deplored. But she found a voice for her frustrations through her poems, artfully crafted with double meanings and sexual innuendoes.

This was a woman who took risky attacks on the prevailing political regime and presumptive male authority. Her poetic skill and adroitly tooled metaphors have secured her a place as one of Vietnam’s most beloved poets. Reading Balaban’s translations, her poetry has the ironic distance and observational exactitude of a contemporary voice. The familiar edge of female anger and resentment, more commonly voiced in our era, is there in her work.

Francis Fitzgerald wrote, “In John Balaban’s translation, the poetry of Ho Xuan Huong—witty, caustic, and profound—should find its place in world literature. I like to imagine its author, the brilliant bad girl of eighteenth century Vietnam, throwing her erotically charged darts into the sexual hypocrisy of all ages and cultures.”

Her name, translated, means “spring essence.” Auspicious.

A few examples:

* * * *
* * * *
Autumn Landscape

Drop by drop rain slaps the banana leaves.
Praise whoever sketched this desolate scene:

the lush, dark canopies of the gnarled tress,
the long river, sliding smooth and white.

I lift my wine flask, drunk with rivers and hills.
My backpack, breathing moonlight, sags with poems.

Look, and love everyone.
Whoever sees this landscape is stunned.

* * * *
* * * *
On Sharing a Husband

Screw the fate that makes you share a man.
One cuddles under cotton blankets; the other’s cold.

Every now and then, well, maybe or may not.
Once or twice a month, oh, it’s like nothing.

You try to stick to it like a fly on rice
but the rice is rotten. You slave like the maid,

but without pay. If I had known how it would go
I think I would have lived alone.

* * * *
* * * *
Weaving at Night

Lampwick turned up, the room glows white.
The loom moves easily all night long

as feet work and push below.
Nimbly the shuttle flies in and out,

wide or narrow, big or small, sliding in snug.
Long or short, it glides out smoothly.

Girls who do it right, let it soak
then wait a while for the blush to show.

* * * *
* * * *
Spring Watching Pavilion

A gentle spring evening arrives
Airily, unclouded by worldly dust.

Three times the bell tolls echoes like a wave.
We see heaven upside-down in sad puddles.

Love’s vast sea cannot be emptied.
And springs of grace flow easily everywhere.

Where is nirvana?
Nirvana is here, nine times out of ten.