Landscape With Fishermen

by Tsubaki Chinzan


        By the middle of the nineteenth century

                                the fishermen are old.

        The landscape they inhabit

                                                        stretches away--

        back far enough to start

                                to blur

                                where earth and sea infuse

                                                        the white of heaven.


        The movement of the baskets to the water,

                                the hearty strokes, the casting

                                                           of wide nets

        have now been repeated so often

                                that arthritic hands

                                                            no longer move

                                to clever minds.


        These fishermen grasp each other slowly.

        They fish,

                                they rest,

                                                               and they dream.    

                                                                from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Alchemy (1982)


The Northern Sea

             by Chou Ch'en


                    A blast of Arctic cold

                                turning calm seas

                                            into dragons--

                    their scales shine

                                in the dead light of winter afternoons;

                    they hiss and fume

                                spitting liquid fire.


                    So, too, my mind:

                                   cold anger, fiery despair!

                                                    I shall never find my retreat

                                                                in the Southern Mountains.

                                                     from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first printed in Mr. Cogito (Winter, 1982)


U.C.L.A. '64-'68

                                                                            "Those who cannot remember the past are

                                                                             condemned to repeat it." George Santayana


                    Red brick arches

                            and tiled roofs

                                    still bathe in the sun

                                            still float on L.A. smog.

                    Near dusty eucalyptus

                             they dream of Romanesque Italy

                                    despite construction noisy

                                            and the loss of motif

                    in on-going additions.


                    I dream back to a time

                             when protests were buoyant here:

                    teach-ins, sit-ins, love-ins,

                              mostly below a gothic Kirkoff Hall,

                                        on the grass,

                                                now called Meyerhoff Square

                    in memory of the professor of philosophy

                                who warned us not to trust the so-called experts.


                    Greater floods were coming from the North:

                                at Berkeley, in cooler air,

                                            from the brittle bow of Sather Gate

                                                        to the white steps of Sproul

                    under a piercing campanile,

                                   they were sailing toward revolution.


                    But at that peak the tides were receding,

                                    the winds shifting:

                                                Meyerhoff died in '65;

                                                            Reagan was elected governor, Kerr fired.

                    Then came assassinations, suicides and bombings.

                                    The draft ended,

                                                   and years later the war.


                    I remember the death march for Martin Luther King:

                                    we ambled around campus

                                                    and broke up

                                                                at a newly-constructed fountain--

                    it flowed down


                                                       instead of shooting up.

                       from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Poetry/L.A. (edited Helen Friedland, Sep. 1981) 


Against the Anniversary of Our Extinction

                                                closely after W.S. Merwin and for Jonathan Schell

                    Every year without knowing it we may have passed the day

                    When the last fires would wave us

                    And silence would set in

                    An epochless traveler

                    Like the blast of a lifeless star


                    Then we would no longer

                    Find ourselves in light as in a strange garment

                    Surprised at the earth

                    And the love among humans

                    And the danger of their betrayal

                    As today rewriting after a night of rain

                    Hearing the finches sing and the falling continue

                    And thankful not knowing to whom

                                                    from A Hollow of Waves (1983), first published in Portland Review (Fall, 1982),

                                                                                       reprinted in The Rhysling Anthology, ed. Robert Frazier (1983).


Buying New Shoes


                You keep having to go back:

                the paunchy man in the pin-striped suit

                    never stops talking to your mother;

                he measures your heel,

                        deftly corners the knuckle of your

                big toe, and 

                    reads out loud the number (somewhere between 5 and 9).


                He's up quickly for a moment

                    behind a curtain, pulling at boxes,

                        and soon

                fresh tissue paper crackles whitely

                    as the new shoes appear--

                not a scuff mark anywhere, not even on the soles,

                        With the force of a horn to the heel

                your foot squeezes inside tough leather;

                    then his furious fingers follow,

                        lacing and tying.


                Straddled as he is

                    on what seems like the top of a very small slide,

                        you're afraid you might kick him in the balls

                as he tugs one last time to cinch the knot.


                Then it's time to parade

                    up to the windows and back to the mirrors.

                        And he never stops talking to your mother.


                He used to have a machine you could stand on

                    if you wanted to watch your toes wiggle

                in your shoes--small twiggy bones, ghoulish green, empty flesh.

                        It was done with x-ray.

                Those machines were the first to go.                      revised, from A Hollow of Waves



Our Late Jeopardy


                A storm played against our coast

                all weekend. It never rested

                from its divisive game of wind


                and water. It wanted to give up

                the tiresome sport of daily gusts,

                showery finesse. It moved in on us


                at night when it thought we might not

                notice any double dealings, premeditated

                parries and thrusts. It woke us


                up long after dark, wading

                in passion outside our doors.

                Power lines came down and branches


                borne out of trees. But, holding out

                our hands, we remembered other angles,

                moves of our own. We employed 


                what we had of life, of bluff and

                desire, and we weathered its feints

                against our windowpanes.                      from A Hollow of Waves (1983)