Friday, April 23, 2010

The Pillow Book 28. The old Chinese Poets

28. The old Chinese poets

xxxThe old Chinese poets composed a shi after walking just a few short steps. The closest I have come to this was to write a lousy sestina in my head after walking up and down the Bronxville park bounded on one side by train tracks and the other by a motorway.
xxxWalking in a cemetery is charming when there is light. In the summer the headstones can still be scanned at eight, or even nine o’clock. In the fall the leaves litter the graves and give them a melancholic look of being forsaken. In the winter the bare branches bring out the grittiness of the stones. In the spring, when the trees put on their freshest green and the birds are almost intelligible, the cemetery turns into a sculpture garden, like the Tuileries.
xxxI also love to walk around a city. San Francisco with Winston. Amsterdam with Tim. New York.
xxxIt is comforting to walk along a familiar path. The mind returns from observing, deciding, and judging to itself. It is like wandering out and walking home at the same time. Doing just that along the East River one afternoon, I made up this tanka:

The sun casts shadows, and so why I am surprised that love makes darkness, as if I am not in its way?

xxxThe deepest darkness I know is the long night marches during National Service, the battalion strung out in a single file, scraping and scrambling over the humpbacked ground, wading waist-deep in a river as black as tar, pressing through almost impenetrable thorn. The worst thing that could happen was to lose contact. All that kept the line intact was the blue Cyalume straw on the back of the helmet of the man in front, and of the man in front of him.


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