Poetry / December 2013 (Issue 22)

Two Poems

by W.F. Lantry

Horses' Hooves
after Chuang Tzu
The first potter believed he knew the clay
and shaped it to his will, making a square
or circle, using compasses or frames,
and firing in a kiln each thing he made,
believing, as it hardened in the flames
then cooled slowly in the evening air,
he'd wrought essential forms from simple earth.

The first woodworker understood the worth
(or so he thought) of convoluted grain
turning against itself, and bent it straight
or routed it lengthwise until it stayed
within that form, hoping to recreate
its nature in his structures, to contain
the flowing pattern even as it moves.

But horses tread rimed hoarfrost with their hooves
to get at tender grass. They leap and pace
through open pastures: they should not be bound
or have their manes woven into a braid.
If left unbridled they can cover ground
quicker than any rider in a race,
indifferent to illusive disarray.

Xi Shi

The lotus blushes in her presence, blooms
at night sometimes, from sheer humility,
white birds forget to fly. Even the wind
grows silent as she passes, bamboo chimes
hang still in quiet air. The rainbow finned
exotic koi seek shadows when they see
her form arriving. Yet no-one can say

they know what cloth she bent to wash the day
he first glimpsed her. Some even say the stones
rose up, or doused themselves, based on her need.
This is untrue: he watched her many times
and never saw the water rise, recede,
or flow against itself. Her jewelled tones
attracted him, they flowed across the clear

still air, and lingering, entranced his ear.
He could not, then, foresee a kingdom's fall,
her melancholy, or her close escape:
who can predict the way a jasmine climbs?
He only knew her beauty would reshape
his every thought, her singing would enthrall
his passions, as if songs were sweet perfumes.
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