Monday, December 12, 2005

water dragon chant 1

I looked up and saw clouds northwest
a unique sword is needed for enemies

mountain so high and so empty, so cold

I look up –
between herd boy and the weaving girl
a purple flame

bright moon and dim stars
an angry wind
and thunder far off

mountains are holding back
the green river

the sadness of empire’s thousand years
this sunset living in the fire

the mountain’s my anchor
a bamboo mat and a cool pot by

I’ll dream every empire away

water dragon chant 2

the horses of heaven
float back from the south
but how many are able
in administration?

the elders of the central plain
wish to attack the north
nothing changes

around the Prime Minister’s villa
the party goes on day and night
fragrance of flowers, songs
with birds singing, it’s always
‘let’s raise just this one more cup’

those officials meant
to protect the country
empty it of what’s worth saving

how efficient they are
the northern tribes will never come
knowing there’s not a thing left for them

god of cranes

the boat goes fast
too fast
and the boatman
steering us through
the three gorges
does his best
to look
at the passengers –
at least they’re
all more frightened
than him

the mountains here
like swords
or like halberds

south and north
of the stream
different races
rocks equally fanciful
either side

see fishermen, woodcutters
point at our flimsy craft
as if it were an event
sent to witness

one crane in still waters
receives all my prayers
eyes shut tight
still I lean with the railing
insides heave with
the churning out there

at last indeed we come to shore
stand tired around the one grand pot
how different the world is for survivors
the boatman no longer looks at each face

behind us all relics – happy and sad
all the past flashed by
with sunset now fading
last wings now turn the world
beyond dusk

in the south pagoda
we chant with the best
flutes are happiest
under such moons

can my heart still believe
what we passed through this day?

my face left brackish
with the river’s spray

god of water

I laugh at the water god
wonder what angers him

I laugh at the goddess
now amending the sky

no paths to follow
through this weed, this mist

I take a walking stick
to the dark green moss

was it I who asked for this wind
for this rain
for these thousand years?

the shepherd boys here
started a fire
sometimes oxen and sheep
will lock horns

spring on the rock
like a drop of fresh milk
now and then jade blossoms there

four, five pagodas
singing and dancing

water god, goddess
both laugh at me now

peasants call
‘don’t think too hard,
just join in’

old battles laid in the dust of town streets

where I come from
there’s a shortage of heroes
deeds of daring disperse in the wind

setting sun, grass, trees,
same old alleys – but they say
that once mailed horses, armour
flashed here – devouring like tigers
thousands of leagues

the emperor was unwise
to take on the mountain
failure and rout were his reward

half a century struck
in the drums of the temple
crows over head
circle the same

Spring comes beaming into the garden

all my life I’ve been broadminded
knew about the world
resentment between men and women

white hair won’t last long
time left is precious

one should live in the mountains
last days that way will be a dream
and one will slip away past evening
into the dawn of a world far other

nothing to resent there
one might well lament
but even in eternity
that would be time wasted

of course I am curious
to know my past lives
but why should any such
knowledge be shown me?

I have come to attend
to the words of the Buddha

friends on that high hill –
can you hear me?

I must be sure
not to remember

call back my soul
sing loudly for me

groping for fish

a few storms
the odd puff of Spring
dissolves in a rush
too soon the petals lie spent

Spring – can’t you stop here?
leaves of the tropics stand in your road
why can’t you speak?

it’s as if only the webs
spun under the eaves
can capture the catkin for me

depressing in the palace
once the wedding is postponed

to dust all this sadness
don’t go up the hill
don’t look at the willows

dusk will descend soon enough

congratulating the bride

I can’t help it but I’m getting old
I don’t travel much anymore
old friends are fewer
white hair is more
I laugh at the world’s thousand things

what is there makes an old man happy?
I look into green mountains
among them lies always the smile of a valley
the mountain and I this way alike

a glass of wine sat by the window looks east
waits for a friend to be guest
I think of Yuanming’s poem –
the motionless cloud –
that’s me now

those who wish to be famous
drink east of the river
discover deep meanings
in dregs of the wine

I turn my head now
to roar with the wind
I’ll never regret
having not met the heroes
I only regret they’re
not with me here now

they’d trip over my beard
if they came

song to the six states

I wake early
wondering how ill I am
I speak with the crane
who’s taken up residence
in a corner of the courtyard

crane – let me tell you
three things perplex me

nobody helps and old sick man
I planted the pines myself
they blocked the plum blossom cove
and the curved paths

they stand already a few feet high
elegant as dancers
they must be removed

in front of the autumn water hall
the lake is like a silver mirror
you can see your eyebrows in it

then a tempest comes on
and the world turns to mud
and my hut is among muddy ditches

green mountains my favourite
green bamboo outside the hut
the mountain is almost all bamboo
and so I must remove it
just to make the mountain be

I’d prefer to go without fish
than without bamboo

crane – let me tell you
it’s hard to keep control
you know what I mean

there’s medicine which makes us younger
but that won’t cure me
the only thing for it
is to join the mountain
and let the bamboo be

Sunday, November 27, 2005

the river all red

left stranded in Xinfeng
shabby clothes, eyes of dust
I lean on a sword
till the clouds take its shine

no one writes good laments anymore
and another thing
some heroes ought to be appointed
to help the emperor
in the country’s defence
there might be prosperity then
as it is they only read old classics
and that’s where they are read

why be sad
when we can drink?
life’s short – let’s
treasure the moment

woman’s company’s best
chrysanthemum hairpins
who needs to serve, to be a hero?

this sword would bring me
a good cow, a field
yes there’d be loneliness
and poems written

fragrant garden

a woman of exceptional beauty
with no references for the palace
still she makes others jealous

it’s always a pretty girl who gets hurt
a moon so bright the stars seem dim

she folds her arms – lofty mountains
rivers run, frogs in dried ponds contend

this empire needs a better script
a better by-line than Son of Heaven

a fire dragon could make ancestors glorious
just as silkworms wind and spin

and so a garment’s spun
think of the wind and the moon by the lake

will the works of heroes endure?
look to graves in wasted grass

I’ll stick with my chances
of staying in print

prelude to water melody

sun shines on the door of the palace
the tigers and leopards have all opened up
it’s the dragon who won’t be changing his mind

virtue and patriotism – they’ll never sway him
though they may last past the grave

still, good news can spread
come and laugh at my thatched cottage
door covered in grass
path hewn from moss

I’ll put both of your hands to use
baked crab in one, wine glass in the other
we shall speak of swords, of poems
we’ll sing till we fall down

the sadness of white hair
the joy of survival
I’ve learnt to keep clear
of the court’s sunlit doors

another prelude to a water melody

I’ve always been fond of outer space
dreamt of taking myself to the sky

a word with the moon and a thousand years pass
here come my old friends riding on egrets

here comes Su Dongpo, here comes Li Bai
see how the two of them hold the Big Dipper?

see how these fellows put away wine!
a somnolent voice frees me for napping

great swan spreads its wings again and again
heaven and earth – which round, which square?

one puts a perplexed pillow by, one ponders
the imperfection of all things below

then a beautiful woman ruins that theory
perfection is where the heart knows it must go

Spring in Han Palace

and everywhere women’s pretty heads
draped in the flags of Spring

wind and the rain come for no reason
still the cold weather stays

two sparrows tonight
dream of the garden
where the Han emperor hunted

wine from the mandarins
fruit trays, willows make green
and the plum blossoms carry

the east breeze into the glass
of the mirror… there’s no time
to spare… there’s a sad face
and flowers fall after they blossom

wild geese of the Han wing home

eight beats of the old song

that old general Lu drank wildly
after his wild ride
shame on the arrogant official
who asked him out of his saddle
to stop the night with his whole army
by this far pavilion

once General Li shot a tiger alone
his arrow so honed it could pierce a stone
but the emperor gave him no title
he retired to the countryside to toil

still, he expanded the empire just farming
and all of our hearts by his example grew
but his twilight’s come and
now night’s gloomy reign
covers the land with frost

charm of a singer

wild pear flowers
trip down the mountains

slim as the moon
she sings

Qing Ming comes quickly
and it goes

chill Spring wind wakes me
from my dream

makes me fear
dreaming mists

by the river’s bank
fine carriages see off the willows

grey hairs in the mirror
why look so surprised?

only the swallows can tell of the past
and who can fathom their speech?

charm of another singer

if I could have all the official garb
the hoo-ha and the broo-ha-ha
then I’d be like a hero of Han
with the moon conversing
I’d know what men are
but I wouldn’t know any men

as it is there’s frost on my brow
chrysanthemums falling
I’m medicine in the emperor’s cage
this dynasty no less real than the rest
white clouds and the moon
and waning stars pass
just as birds, just as men
from this stage

slow tune of lily magnolia flowers

this Han emperor built a capital
no one can remember it now

his first act was to attack the west
we bade him farewell at a banquet

he went too far too fast

sad flags in the air
missed all the way back

the emperor came home in a box

wild geese in their
autumn shadows flew

water dragon chant

blue sky in the autumn
water flows clear
the distant hills are sadness

like jade clasps
in a girl’s coiled hair
the sunshine
in the chill pavilion

the west wind grows
as pale as dusk

lost swans in their sorrow
cry each to each
the eagle finds no nesting

years pass
and the wanderer beneath them
remembers a pretty face
red cloth for his tears

could have been a householder once

away beyond the wind and the rain
where even the trees grow old

Monday, November 21, 2005

first full moon festival

Spring wind brings the fireworks
stars fall like rain

carved coaches pass drawn by noble steeds
a trail of perfume, flute music behind

dragons and fish all night at their dance
a crystal lantern hangs on the breeze

and more – jade moths, silver willows, gold threads
the talk and the laughter, the fair folk in crowds

the crowds passing, one face among them I must find
and there – in midnight’s fading lantern

there she is – and I’m found

song of a river city

bamboo and pine – the countryside
hear the cloud clad clan from high on their hill

everything stands up after the snow
leans towards blossom, Spring light

smell the grass by the stream
on the peach flower road

puts you in mind of the story you’re in
then swing past the wine shop

bring up a bottle, it keeps night’s cold out
the carriage that brought me seems to be sighing

white hair and pale face – such work to be old!
wine won’t restore youth but it makes words bold

autumns pass in their thousands

every day fit and well
the horses report

a birthday feast
shows the hero’s mettle

the city walls are strong enough
need neither mending nor support

time out for the jade
for the pearl raining sky

at peace
the emperor’s edict comes

first thing in the morning
this territory small

the army is vast
our cellar’s on wheels

let’s remain in the tent
strategy to discuss


thirteen girls of springtime
learnt to embroider flowers thinner than real

wind and the rain had the better of them
now spent cloth like red carpet flies in the garden

spring is a frivolous wanderer
won’t stay, but won’t be told to go either

a pot of wine – and in it place flowers
good wine too

and willows for tears
in sight of the sea

just another wee dram?

let me pour you a glass
oh please say yes
speak well of me
as of all things, all others

look at this rakish beaker
well plied, leers and it ogles
vessels, vintages younger
warm, cool, each brimming truth

I drank a lot when I was young
and people said that I was stubborn
better to tell what they wanted to hear
with wine however there’s no need to flatter

I’m no good at words
‘fail them before they fail you’ I say
besides – I’d rather have wine in my mouth
give passion to things which can’t matter

Zhu Ying Tai closer

let us divide the hairpins between us
let’s part at the peach tree
willows in mist
the pavilion too far in this wind and rain
heartbreaking to see petals so strewn
only the orioles mourn them

flowers in temples
petals all numbered
I put back the hairpin to count days again
light dim in thin silk
sobbing in dreams
only Spring brings these worries

a thousand years his poetry lives

too old to get rich now
and if I were to
what good would it do?

life in a rice bowl
or wine warmed in cups?
the old hermits teach me the way

drink in my spare time
write poems while drunk
a thousand years scrimping

and saving, this clan will
never own the fields they till
look at this lazy nong of a nephew

hungrily waiting for uncle to fall
what good would I do by leaving a legacy?
better peasants drink to their ancestor – me

song of the fairy in the cave

he wants to dance by the southern stream
green the hills there with wonder

seagulls lie on the sandy bank
fishing boats set with the sun

Tao Qian teaches forgetting this world
and I will be a hermit

I will, just you watch
then let me set sail this once

over the salt vast
dirge of the waves

by poetry and wine I come
and all for the sake of a woman

sublime pleasures

black clouds to the ridge of the mountain attend
the tempest pours rain from the sky

trees and the sunset both lost to the storm
until there is nothing to picture

just a little imagination reveals
the green flag in pale light at the foot of the hill

tells me the wine shop’s now open
summer’s like this – a glorious vista

wake bamboos and pines
bring me my three treasures

in the dreaming mind
no bird too wild but visits

the river all red

stream and mountain peak pass through my eyes
all strangely and as I have somewhere remembered

time may have flown but I’ve been on foot
how many pairs of shoes make a life?

hardships have etched in my face more furrows
than this harsh sun ploughs

I go on
Wu and Chu – a river divides them

Cao Cao and Liu Bei
the west wind makes dust

the man building palaces
now narrow in tomb

in time it is only the fool
pledges trust

Monday, November 14, 2005


a young king

where can I look to the north?

from a splendid pavilion

how many dynasties rise and then fall?

history swift as the Yangtze

a young king with his armoured host

held the southeast, fought without respite

only two of the empire’s heroes could match him

Cao Cao and Liu Bei

give me a sun like Sun Quan instead


bright the moon shines

bright the moon shines upon the pavilion

the courtyard full of olive scent

autumn here now, who climbs high feels sad

let us pour plenty of wine

watch the dance

wind and rain will only bring worries


New Year coming

everyone busy with the New Year coming

flowers and blossom all fall

earth turns, sun spins – mere decoration

no one remembers the past

before Spring comes

are we wise not to ask

whether flowers will bloom early this year

wind and rain won’t be predicted

let’s drink to the coming New Year!


poems for the Spring


Spring has come, the feast almost on us

wind and rain paint the fields

the poet’s brush to set all down

people pass through the willows

butterflies through flowers

silkworms newborn in the mulberry trees

with poems and wine I busy myself

who knows whether cloudy or sunny by morning

whether the weather is with us or not

all sober fools will be good for a laugh


a Spring wind blows out

last cobwebs of winter

then by the brazier we dwell

warm in our hutch

sweet dreaming

under the roof

under rain


a spray of plum blossoms

drunk on my mountain top

in a green mist

the day is cold

leaving is nigh

I ask the plum if she knows

will it snow

last time here were heavy drifts

now the willows all hang low

green grass abounds

blackbirds beg the Spring to stay


a drunk’s dream


I light the lamp

to look at the sword

on my waist


I remember the dream

full of the enemy’s wild horns

and ours

beef and grog had been given the men

with every kind of instrument

they worked themselves

up in a frenzy

at the roll call

they were all ready to fight

our horses ran as fast as dragons

our arrows flew like thunderbolts

how famous all of us were to be

how white my hair on waking


the trouble with parting words

when I was young – easy goodbyes

now I can’t stand this writing farewell

see the wild geese

send winter south

like a note tied

under their legs

the plum blossom helps

to make longing less

so many rivers and mountains

birds skirt

the journey endless

among the old clans

no need to see me off with a flag

just light me a lantern

mid-Autumn, New Year


maudlin thoughts come to naught

don’t be so sad thinking of home

the emperor wants you to write a new poem

growing old having done so little – that’s tragic

no use relying on poetry’s magic

leaning green on the mountain

one worries how to make a living

there’s singing and dancing when we are young

white heads spill ink on what was once sung


falling petals

the yellow warbler

the purple swallow

fly singing

of some pretty thing

not for our ears to understand

spring and the season

of rain is upon us

the rain thuds by

my tiny window

tonight a wind

to tend these clouds

to blow the moon

back home

Monday, November 07, 2005

rat dreaming

a hungry rat runs past the bed
rats always run
they’re always hungry

a rat dances towards the light
this is the rodent’s joy

unending night
up on the roof
a howling wind

paper’s torn
rain beats the walls rotten

think of the shutters mumbling insensibly

‘life took me everywhere’
the old rat said

‘now only my underbelly’s still black
the rest is grey, I’ve snow white whiskers

once I dreamt I woke a man
I’ve long since slept that nightmare off’

bedclothes too thin
see how I turn

the autumn gets inside me

for thousands of miles
these mountains the same

still thousands of years
to this night

serene music

pines and bamboo
in the garden touch clouds
a pleasure to live in this place

walking east with my stick
to taste pork
that’s been blessed

wine warms on the hob
soon we’ll imbibe


in the harvest season
pick pears and jujubes

in the west wind
kids fight lengths of bamboo

they don’t frighten anyone … in fact
they cheer up a secret old codger like me

moon over the west river

bright moon frightens crows on the bough
cicadas shrill cool at midnight
a whiff of these fields you can tell a good crop
every frog croaks loud for the harvest

on the horizon, seven, eight stars
two or three drops of rain on the hill
thatched inn next to the village god’s house
round the corner the old bridge still there

moon over the west river 2

even though alcohol makes you happy
it’s not as if one has time to be sad
till lately I thought the works of the sages
useless no matter how right

drunk by the old familiar pine last night
I asked the tree just how
…drunk I mean, of course, I asked…
he helped me up, I pushed him away

condescending damn tree

moon over the west river 3

the ten thousand things
clouds and smoke passing
the hundred year willow
soon withers away

the best thing for now
after drinking and talk
sound sleep with myself
see what I’ve to say

the government levies taxes
and promptly, to pay
the tax collectors too
and soldiers, bean counters
bureaucrats all shades
and all sizes
offices full of them
they make quite a crew

myself? I’m here to look
after the mountain, streams
water falling and green
green bamboo

partridge sky 1

after singing farewell
tears score my face

neither sorrow nor joy
leaves me now

a storm above the river
just drifts

official rank is no big deal
eat up, eat up I say

water in courses
rises to heaven

so much hatred
hear clash of steel

in the blue above
all souls meet one day

partridge sky 2

soft mulberry
just beginning to bud

the silkworm grows
by eastern light

short grass
just tufting

the yellow cow’s moo
sun sets on the forest

turns crows
into night

mountains far greet now
mountains nearby

a green flag shows
where wine’s to be had

in the city students
suffer so many ways

the shepherd’s purse
holds just this one meal

but by its power
spring stays

partridge sky 3

a million pearls
spat from these falls

yellow and squirrel
suslik, polatouche

treacherous paths
keep all on their toes

stop to tune into
their conversation

that’s when you’ll hear
no one’s home

bridge centres the view
pagoda’s far off

along the southern stream
I walk with my stick

with my grass shoes
grow old

in my cosy hut’s
bamboo grove

partridge sky 4

when I was young
I waved a flag
to lead a thousand soldiers

horse too
how my men
fashioned arrows
of silver
at night

they brought
down the moon

now the enemy owns it
now I come back
I’m nobody

thinking of the past
how one
sighs to be neglected

spring won’t bring back
the black to my beard

you can’t imagine
the tracts I wrote
on tactics
for this country

in return I’m given
this poor field
bent mattock
and some weather-worn tome
titled ‘how to grow tree’

bridge of magpies

stay on the pine hill
keep out of summer

stay in this hut
to keep out of the rain

I don’t remember
how many times I’ve come

and drunk watched the waterfall
clung to my rock

this is where
I sober up


the eastern family
found a new wife

the daughter of the west
found a man

so much laughter and light
by the gate

the fragrance of
a thousand flowers

the heart sings heaven’s thanks
this night breeze

Spring in the jade pavilion

sunset all along the river
lights the grass and lights the trees

a thousand years
six dynasties

o deeply one cares for the rise and the fall
of kingdoms and countries

the egret’s call –
sandbank to lazy sandbank

brings tears
better to put aside duties and fears

brush the dirt off of clothes
go home in the autumn

Monday, October 31, 2005

Xin Qiji Project

Like the Meng Jiao project, Xin Qiji Project plays at the borders between translation and adaptation, variation and inspiration. Xin Qiji (1140-1207) was a Song Dynasty poet who wrote in a range of genres and is famous for the 626 ci poems he wrote to 101 different tunes. Let's see how many we can respond to here.

The poems in this post are all my responses to Xin Qiji. To show some of the process though, I'll start by including the original poem with the gloss by Agnes Vong, my collaborator in this project. Later posts may show poems in English or Chinese, translations or originals by Agnes as well.


浣溪沙 Silk-washing Stream
細听春山杜宇啼。 Listen carefully and you can hear a cuckoo sobbing
一声声是送行诗。 It’s so sad as if he’s singing a farewell song
朝来白鸟背人飞。 Early next morning he flies away with an egret leaving me alone
对郑子真岩石卧, Thinking of the West Han hermit Zheng Zizhen laying on the rocks
趁陶元亮菊花期。 And the East Jin Tao Yuanliang enjoying himself in the chrysanthemum
而今堪诵背山移。 I’m gonna recite the hermit book and be friend with it

by a stream where silk is washed

first variation

listen carefully and you can hear a cuckoo sobbing
someone must be leaving

sure enough – next morning, the cuckoo with the egret gone
I’m the one alone

plenty of time to think about hermits
like Zheng Zizhen hanging out with just rocks
or that East Jin poet Tao Yuanliang
the one who was into chrysanthemum

why not recite a few of their verses?
you won’t truer friends than poems

by a stream where silk is washed

first variation

listen carefully and you can hear a cuckoo sobbing
someone must be leaving
sure enough – next morning, the cuckoo with the egret gone
I’m the one alone
plenty of time to think about hermits and poets
why not recite a few of their verses?
you won’t truer friends than poems

by a stream where silk is washed

third variation

hear that cry-baby cuckoo?
someone’s leaving

turned out next morning
cuckoo and egret had flown the coop

left me pondering hermits
those two

then why not recite a few verses?
every bird knows I’m had for a song

浣溪沙 Silk-washing Stream 2
新葺茅檐次第成。 The eaves are ready
青山恰对小窗横。 The green mountain is just opposite to my small window
去年曾共燕经营。 It’s been a year like a sparrow building its nest
病怯杯盘甘止酒, Because of illness, I’ve stopped myself from touching the bottle and tray
老依香火苦翻经。 Incense and light are by my side praying with me
夜来依旧管弦声。 Outside the door orchestral music is still going on

by a stream where silk is washed (2)

first variation

at last a roof
green mountain
great as window’s small

a year at my nest
I’d make a bad sparrow

illness has kept me from the bottle
don’t worry

one day and it won’t be long
I’ll be well enough

to make myself sick
for now – incense and light

pray with me
and past my door

that orchestra
no human heart can stop

by a stream where silk is washed (2)

second variation

at last a roof
green mountain
great as window’s small

a year at my nest
I’d make a bad sparrow

illness has kept me from the bottle
don’t worry

one day and it won’t be long
I’ll be well enough

to make myself sick
for now – incense and light

pray with me
and past my door

a wedding
all the world’s a wedding

an orchestra of mountains round
and heaven for their roof

a tip from the mountain

listing the achievements of millennia
would be quite time consuming
so much suffering to tell as well

sharks swim back into the abyss
people get about on land again
leave heaven alone for a while

see that big red sun going down?
that’s the west – waves won’t travel
backwards or sand run up the hourglass

how tangled the mind in its nowhere to go
see how quietly the mountain sits thinking


a good season

old men in the field say ‘enough rain this year’
wrinkles on their brows are less
they’re happy to go home and clean their rice pots

birds sing as if attending guests now
peaches bloom so beautifully – who isn’t moved?
new flowers of the pears blossom white

the young

the young don’t know how misery tastes
they’ve always one more step to climb
they’ve the stiff upper lip for it too
but that’s not the way a poem’s made

having been through the mill a bit
one prefers the passage down stairs
one pauses often on the way, admiring
the season, admiring the view

General Li

General Li was brave and smart
he lost the battle but had to have his horses back
Li Cai, his cousin, though never very bright,
was made a duke for his trouble

he took off his armour
because he’d decided to clear the country of weeds
in fact he was looking for slate to build his roof

written on city wall
to a little known tune

green of the mountain far off, deceptive
like someone conversing with someone taller

thousands of horses meet the Prime Minister
smoke and rain queue for the horizon

all day bowing, shaking hands, hopeful ever
look for the future – it won’t come that way

everyone speaks of my hair
made white by unspoken sadness

I clap my hands to mock the gulls here
how miserable we are


the river has a name
the dam here has a name as well

nameless the refugees who’ve passed
uncounted their tears
no catalogue of untold sorrows

look from the northwest
down to the capital
greener and greener
mountains block sight

no matter how many
they won’t stop the river
drifts east with saddening mists

in the mountains
the solitary song
of the partridge

she makes herself
too sad

serene music

a brief hut by the water
green grass laps about

those southerners, when drunk
their lilt!

only grandparents
have leisure to listen

the eldest son’s
the hardest worker
farms beans
by the eastern stream

second son
weaves chicken cages

youngest is the naughty one
plays on his lute
makes people smile

all of them eating
lotus now
lying by the Sunday

rat dreaming

a hungry rat runs past the bed
rats always run
they’re always hungry

a rat dances towards the light
this is the rodent’s joy

unending night
up on the roof
a howling wind

paper’s torn
rain beats the walls rotten

think of the shutters mumbling insensibly

‘life took me everywhere’
the old rat said

‘now only my underbelly’s still black
the rest is grey, I’ve snow white whiskers

once I dreamt I woke a man
I’ve long since slept that nightmare off’

bedclothes too thin
see how I turn

the autumn gets inside me

for thousands of miles
these mountains the same

still thousands of years
to this night