Stealing from One of My Own Poems
The poets always say “if” As in “if the soul gets loose.”
Have you seen the black geese
Eating cold rowan berries?
Trust me the soul has “if-freedoms.”
Yes yes if the soul gets loose…
Lately I’ve been laughing
Like one who’s been rowing all day
In an open boat.
I like the poets of “if” who are many. Lucille Clifton: “I rise up above myself/like a fish flying…”; Lucy Brock Broido: “I, abstract, adoring, distant/And unsalvageable.”; Marvin Bell: “The “I” in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.”; Martín Espada: “The poet’s house was a city of glass:”
Blind and getting old I re-read Milton.
His Jesus is theoretical
While his Satan is real.
Meanwhile crossing the street
Shadow vehicles from all directions.
If shows off its Kyoto armor of black dragon scales.
If wants nothing—which makes it
A chess problem for the imagination.
If is an amber glow over the village.
If will catch you but not today.
If says no blank space here.
If wants to run you to death.
If knows full well the hill’s shadow.
Year after year and my old mother in her grave.
I choose to believe her cares are lifted.
The only thing I willfully imagine.
You shouldn’t care about my habits
Of mind so forgive me. The branches
Of the yew are fragrant.
Small birds I can’t identify
Are high in its branches.
My heart beats steadily.
“Why” wrote Ikkyu,
“Is it all so beautiful, this false dream,
This craziness, why?”
Morning smells of pines.
The little dog raises his sweet face my way.
Walls of memory come down.
Again I’m a young student translating a poem:
You came close. Hoar frost and snow was coming on. Clouds and branches at the windows. All night the stars were like a song. I went in, singing their song, step by step.
In discrete moments this life, this branch with its birds makes sense.
If and if.
And violence seems unreal just now.