Sunday, March 11, 2007

Poem Half in the Manner of Li Po by Charlies Wright

All things aspire to weightlessness,
some place beyond the lip of language,
Some silence, some zone of grace,

Sky white as raw silk,
opening mirror cold-sprung in the west,
Sunset like dead grass.

If God hurt the way we hurt,
he, too, would be heart-sore,
Disconsolate, unappeasable.

Li Ho, the story goes, would leave home
Each day at dawn, riding a colt, a servant boy
walking behind him,
An antique tapestry bag
Strapped to his back.
When inspiration struck, Ho would write
The lines down and drop them in the bag.
At night he'd go home and work the lines up into a poem,
No matter how disconnected and loose-leafed they were.
His mother once said,
"He won't stop until he has vomited out his heart."

And so he did.
Like John Keats,
He died believing his name would never be written among the

Without hope, he thought himself--that worst curse--unlucky.
At twenty-seven, at death's line, he saw a man come
In purple, driving a red dragon,
A tablet in one hand, who said,
"I'm here to summon Li Ho."

Ho got from his bed and wept.
Far from the sick room's dragon-dark, snow stormed the passes,
Monkeys surfed the bo trees
and foolish men ate white jade.

How mournful the southern hills are,
how white their despair
Under December's T'ang blue blank page.

What's the use of words--there are no words
For December's chill redaction,
for the way it makes us feel.

We hang like clouds between heaven and earth,
between something and nothing,
Sometimes with shadows, sometimes without.

Posted with permission of the author
Please note: this poem lacks the author's intended indentations

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