Thursday, February 03, 2011

Life Is A Dinner-Party

D.R.'s daughter Annalesa with rabbit
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Katy Brown, Davis

Silver-tongued poets whisper shimmering words:
antimacassar, fescue, tumbleweed, cellar door.

Poets sway to music only they can appreciate—
anapests, iambs, spondees, troches.

Nothing is ever just simply green for them—
forest, moss, frog, emerald, sea . . .

They are more than the sonnets they write—
more than the pantoums, villanelles, and haiku—

more than the forms, or the images—
more than the rhythms and the individual words.

They summon demons and seraphim, monsters
and memories with only the spell of language.

They drink fire, exhale thunder, dream selkies: keepers of,
not black or white, but the silver arts who speak in myrrh.


Thanks, Katy, for the silver-tongued poem, and thanks to D.R. for the shot of his lovely Annalesa and the gigantic bunny. Today, coincidentally, marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Michelle Kunert sends us some pertinent (and impertinent) information: Typically, Rabbit years are good for the Arts and culture, and apparently also for world diplomacy. In 1999, the last Year of the Rabbit, Shakespeare in Love won best film at the Oscars, Thabo Mbeki was elected president of South Africa and Manchester United won the Champions League... Writing poems is also part of Chinese New Year traditions. Gung hay fat choy! For more about such things, go to (Michelle also goes on to talk about eating rabbits, but let's not go there...)

Any discussion of rabbits naturally leads is to talk of groundhogs; yesterday was Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil emerged to see no shadow, which portends an early spring. Thanks, Phil, for your soothsaying yet another year. Go to for more about Phil.

Punxsutawney Phil

Which leads us, naturally, to dox-hoonts. Maybe of you have followed Bill Gainer's wee Alice's exploits through the years—chasing lizards and what-have-you. Today, Bill writes: I thought you might like an up-date on "That Goddamn Alice." Well, she has survived a touchy summer: rattlesnake bite to the cheek left her temporarily horribly disfigured (puffed up) and in the vet's for a few days. Then she sustained a debilitating back injury from playing with Rose (the new puppy); she has fully recovered, but in the process developed a drug abuse problem from long-term steroid use. We had an intervention, and she has been clean and sober for three months now and remains under strict medical supervision. To date, she is officially back working security here. Attached are a few pictures showing her dedication to the job, checking out a suspicious truck in the drive. Please note: one picture may be too risqué for the sensitive of heart. 

Alice The Dox-hoont Working Security 

Anyway, enough of animal valor. Time for some poems from the Chinese.


—Juan Chi (210-263)

The Ten Suns rise in the East,
their drivers whip them onward, thousands of li.
Crossing the sky, they shine down upon China,
suddenly, they sink in the West.

Who says their lustre endures?

That is why the wise man drifts along the river of time.

What is passing cannot remain.
Such are the thorns and thistles of this world.

Thousands of years are just a day.
Life is a dinner-party. Time passes.

Right and wrong, gain and loss—
how can it be worthwhile to vex oneself?

When desire for profit or knowledge come to an end,
so will the sadness of Man.

(translated from the Chinese by Graham Hartill and Wu Fusheng)


—Lu Chi (261-303)

     The pleasure a writer knows is the pleasure all sages enjoy.
     Out of non-being, being is born; out of silence, the writer produces a song.
     In a single yard of silk, infinite space is found; language is a deluge from one small corner of the heart.
     The net of images is cast wider and wider; thoughts search more and more deeply.
     The writer spreads the fragrance of new flowers, an abundance of sprouting buds.
     Laughing winds lift up the metaphor; clouds rise from a forest of writing brushes.

(translated from the Chinese by Sam Hamill)

7. The Music of Words

Like shifting forms in the world
literature takes on many shapes and styles
as the poet crafts ideas
into elegant language.
Let the five tones be used in turn
like five colors in harmony,
and though they vanish and reappear inconstantly
and though it seems a hard path to climb
if you know the basic laws of order and change
your thoughts like a river will flow in channels.
But if your words misfire
it's like grabbing the tail to lead the head:
clear writing turns to mud
like painting yellow on a base of black.

9. The Riding Crop

Sometimes your writing is a lush web of fine thoughts
that undercut each other and muffle the theme;
when you reach the pole there's nowhere else to go,
more becomes less if you try to improve what's done.
A powerful phrase at the crucial point
will whip the writing like a horse and make it gallop;
though all the other words are in place
they wait for the crop to run a good race.
A whip is always more help than harm;
stop revising when you've got it right.

(translated from the Chinese by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)


—Juan Chi

The Mujin flowers blossom on the rolling graves,
these hills are lovely, and luminous.
The radiant sun goes down into the trees
as one by one, the flowers fall.
Outside my window a cricket is singing,
transient thing in the thorn.

Mayflies play for their three days,
their wings are as slender and pretty as feathers.
Who are their costumes designed for?
To decorate their little moment.

The life of Man is also brief.
Our hearts know it. We should
     try our best to live.

(translated from the Chinese by Graham Hartill and Wu Fusheng)


Today's LittleNip: 

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

—Robyn Davidson



Gung Hay Fat Choy!