Adaptations from Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese | DeWitt Clinton

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After Seeing a Dark Shadow on a Waning Moon, I Stay Up
And Read Su Tung P’o’son the death of his baby son

	For Angela Peckenpaugh and Edie Thornton

We’re  still not quite sure how it all happened.
One day they’re here, a bit discombobulated,
 the next, one wrapped 
around a rope, the other, overdosed, 
then a bullet to the brain.
Some close knew how all of this
Was building, but some outside the circle
Were simply shattered that these two
Were why we gathered
Quite confused in funeral lines.
I’m older now than both
And wake from sleep
Relieved  somehow they’re here
Though all we have are two memorial trees.
Both fought for years with what
Seemed daily all their highs and lows.
On the first day of each professor’s
Death we all felt cut
And bruised the air exhumed right
Out of us, of course we all went
Back to work exhausted, so incensed,
So lost in making sense of who we all still miss.


I Shop for Wine so the Dancing and the Singing 
Can be That Much More Thrilling, Then Unfortunately 
Find Su Tung P’o’s Riff on “The Weaker the Wine”

The lower the shelf
The easier you can drink yourself a headache.
The thinner we are
The more we can wrap around each other.
We live almost as opposites.
If we’re dancing and singing, I’ll probably tell myself just two.
We’ve got some quarrelsome characteristics.
The more we stay, the more we sigh.
Sometime soon, or not, we’ll see the end.
We seldom do what the other says.
No need to avoid
Us, we’re an Eastern flower.
The dust and wind we bring in will keep us all amused.
Here, no one lives that long
But soon we’ll be waving the last ferry.
We each have done something great
Though now we’re less inclined to be so good.
Every time I help with jewels I steal a kiss,
So we’re still illuminating, 
Still heating something there.
There might not be too much left after we leave
Except some boxed bones to move around.
As for what we wrote, somebody may find
Some enlightened pages, but most are not.
Some may grab what’s
Ours, but then they’d blush.
We still put up with bad dogs.
A glass ends the night quite well
Even if our stars fall to hell.
Then sometime past 10 we fall
Into the Great Deep Void.


April  22
11:30 am

Months Away from the Longest Day, I Sit Down to Read
 Su Tung P’o’s “The Last Day of the Year”

Who knows if we’ll really make
It to the end of even this year.
Mother always wanted to know
When her end was near, as if she
Could just pack up and hail a cab
For death.  On the worse days
I’ll admit I’ve had enough but lately
I’m starting to balance on my head
Not leaning up against a wall as
I’m usually prone to do so I wouldn’t
Mind a few more years to find a still
Salamba sirsasana I .  I’ll admit some
years have really gone bad,
But then the children in the neighborhood
Have started to squeal and yell more 
In tune with all the barking dogs.
On warmer days day lilies will open
Up around our old paper ash and I’d 
Just as soon wait to see all bloom and bloom.
And another volcano is about to blow,
Longer, higher.  Who’d want to miss
That?  I’m sure if I go back to work
The place will seem brand new.
But it could be true, I might fall into
The same old abyss I usually spend
Most of my time crawling out of but 
Maybe I’ll have a bit of panache, 
Make the new year even more new.
I may be old, but as the old boys 
Say after playing ball, you’re never 
Too old until you’re cold.


After a Spring Evening of Baked Cod, Green Beans and Cold Wine,
I Relax With “Autumn Evening Beside the Lake,” by the Poetess Li Ch’ing Chao

Each day the Lake is warmer and warmer.
Each day more and more bathe on the beach.
Each day boats arrive from dry dock.
This weekend, the beach house opens.
White sails already billow in the harbor.
Winter is boxed away until Labor Day.
In a few days millions of girls will vote for an “American Idol.”
Older folks will have a new star on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Park painters have started to paint the swimming pools.
The forsythia has six yellow blooms.
River crews are cleaning the river trails.
The sea gulls provide aerial complaints.
A body has popped up where ice
Fishermen once sat all day.
Another fell in last night, tipsy.
Young men and women, muscled,
Are starting to crew down the River.


Nearing the Longest Day of the Year, I Pull Weeds, Plant 
A Flat of Flowers, Then Open Lu  Yu’s “The Wild Flower Man”

No one really notices the old woman
Who sells bunches of bok choy
In the shade outside the indoor palace.
All morning long we never see
Who hoes and chops all day.
They’ve been here since the War
Brought them across from old Laos.
The marigolds and asters always
Sell before her leafy greens.
The two of us wonder where they
Go when they’re not behind what
We love to smell.
We’ve both been down on our
Knees (as well) pulling all the weeds we
Just don’t want to see in-
Between what we’ve planted that we hope
We’ll grill along with just caught fish.
Our good neighbor just
Can’t stand the woofs woofs anymore
So we’ll see squad cars
Pulling up late at night to check
Out what’s not right with our
Doggy neighbor who by now
Is smiling with a cold one.

Note: These poems are adaptations from Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese. The numbers correspond to the title/number in Rexroth’s volume and can be used as a reference to 100 Poems from the Chinese.

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