Sunday, February 07, 2021

Two Poem Drafts

The first is a rough paraphrase of Wang Wei's "Deer Park", and the second is loosely based on Hopi mythology.


Wang Wei's Deer Park

Empty mountain, no one seen,
yet heard are human echoes:
Glints rebound in dark woods,
ascending the green moss.


Ancient People

I. The Sun Radiant
Bright is the sun, and beautiful,
glorious in light and in life;
its splendor shines in endless space.
As curling mist in darkness moves,
deep, before the holy daybreak,
the world in breathless patience waits;
and then the golden, rosy glow
makes bright with being all that is,
excited with existence,
pregnant with promise of life.

II. The Spider-Realms
What wonders breed in the earth's womb,
click-clicking in darkness of cave,
eyes grasping phosphorescent glints,
thousands of eyes, cold and thoughtful,
and, click-click, legs beyond count,
on the cold water-surfaces skating,
the watching and wispy-legged things
on moistured walls and monuments!
No pleasure, no passion, no pain,
just cold thought and clicking on walls
in a darkness without a dawn.
But the sun sees all things in all;
on a slender thread from the sky
descended the Spider-spirit
with wisdom in her netted webs,
and salvation from self she spun,
a way to new life and new world.

III. The Forest Wild
Tall are the trees, and terrible;
looming high above are their limbs.
Their shadows cover shrubs and bushes,
rustle and rush of running wolves,
the growling bear sniffing out bees.
Desire, hunger, craving, and care,
yearning, fury, fierce passion's ache,
wild force like hard wind through the trees.
Deep in darkness, in despair's dens,
they love, they hate, they weep and howl,
they tremble in terror and fear.
But the sun sees all things in all;
the woods became a spider's web,
the trails and ways its tangled threads,
and thence a strand like starlight wound
the Spider-spirit's spinning made,
salvation from the world she spun,
a way to new life and new world.

IV. The Firemaking
Human faces and human hands,
both cunning, are taught to create;
the Spider teaches how to spin,
to pattern clay into bright pots,
and most of all the fearsome flame,
the turning of tinder to fire.
Great skills then spark to vivid life
and spread like fire through human lands.
But flame alters and turns to ash,
and human hearts may burn to black.
Skills that move the world can move men
and bring them to darkness and death.
Cruelty grew in cunning mind,
wicked became the human way.
But the sun sees all things in all,
to save the kind, those who still cared,
the Spider reaped the river reeds,
drove reed tunnels deep into earth,
escape from dark depravity,
a way to new life and new world.

V. The Reed Path
Through deep cracks, through cuts of the earth,
the reed tunnels through hard rock,
makes a great chasm, a canyon,
in dusty desertlands of wind,
with prayer the people came forth,
and climbed out of the canyon deep.
The spirit of the dead stands watch;
this is the domain of the door,
the path to the portal of death.
Kind of heart, the people knew peace,
they learned the funereal lore,
with sacred tablets they were taught.
And in that time new teachers came,
bringing arts of power and peace.

VI. The Wisdom People
Wiser than men in the earth's ways,
spirits of subtle sympathy,
sowers and reapers of sweet rain,
cunning in herb that aids and cures,
who have roamed the underworld's roads,
who bow to sun and bring heaven,
makers of music and story,
they taught wisdom with yucca whip,
with flute and dance, with bright feather,
with sabre and with changing shape.
But human hearts may lose their kindness,
great men may beget fools that mock,
and kindness fail from lack of care.
The scoffers spoke with biting scorn;
the teacher's left by long-lost trails.
Alone, alone, we are alone,
but a few young men were faithful,
as clowns took care to remember,
preserving shreds of shared wisdom
until kindness may cure all things,
with reconstructed rites we pray --
with power, but we pray alone,
heart-burdened to help each other,
for we are alone, all alone.

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