I am a history
a memory inventing itself
The suffering touched me too early,
I have burned myself out,
I am the bright ash without desire.
Now, only the silence endures dearly,
When I am still standing in the fire.
William Carlos Williams, Paterson
My room is made
partly of walls, partly
of leaves, partly of music.
Mornings I sit here
pondering the east
until it blooms and opens.
Everyone else I know
rushes through congested dark
to cubicles of doing, squares
of white unchanging light.
I know how lucky I am
but my luck is a kind of exile,
like that of a Chinese poet far from court.
As I sit in the sepia light,
I can feel an immense
imponderable weight, a lifting wind,
a giddy vastness.
My room is a Tang scroll
and I am that small figure
leaning heavily on a staff,
by mountains, mountains, mountains.
Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.
Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more.
And we also once. Never again. But this having been
once, although only once, to have been of the earth,
—Rainer Maria Rilke, from Duino Elegies & The Sonnets of Orpheus (Vintage International, Bilingual Edition, 2009), edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell