Poetry / November 2008 (Issue 5)

Mountain Rocks

by Mike Farman

Jagged mountain crags, narrow pathways;
at twilight as I reached the temple, bats were flying.
I climbed to the hall, sat down on rain-washed steps
among great plantain leaves, swollen jasmine buds.

The priest informed me of a splendid Buddha painting;
He brought a light to show me; I could see it was unique.
He spread my bed, shook the mat, prepared soup and rice:
coarse food, but good enough to satisfy my hunger.
Late that night I lay in stillness, insects silent now;
the moon rose above the ridge, shining through my door.

When daylight came, I left without a path to follow,
wandered here and there through heavy mist.
Red peaks, jade streams, one after another, brimming over;
at last I came to pines and oaks, all of massive span.
Barefoot, I trod on stones to cross the streams,
water gurgling, breezes blowing wide my robe.

If life could stay like this, a person could be happy,
why are we always tethered to officialdom?
If only a few close friends could get together
we might settle here, find peace in our old age.

(This is a translation of a poem by Han Yu (768-825), a Tang Dynasty poet.)

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