Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)

Four Poems

by DeWitt Clinton

Jubilant After Watching the Sun Rise Out Of
The Big Blue Lake, I'm Now Despondent After
Reading Mei Yao Ch'en's "On the Death of His Wife"

For our 40th my wife
Wants to see Paris.
On our 35th we held hands
In the Uffizi and licked gelato.
Both of us now sport white hair
Though she's tinted red
And I'm quite bald. We still love
"Cats and Dogs" so I'd never see it
If she dies for fear I'd die of despair.

On the Vernal Equinox with Snow Showers Expected,
Mei Yao Ch'en Remembers "I Remember the River at Wu Sung"

I don't have to remember how I drive every
Day the same way back and forth across the Kettle Moraine.
Every year the Fox hardens, then widens across spring fields.
Some days I slow down, watch flocks ascend.
Sometimes the moon rises in my windshield.
Cranes fly so close I smile.
In the fall, dead deer stain the roads.
Most of the time I wonder about you.


After French Green Beans and Fajita Fu,
And a Half Bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, I Read
Mei Yao Ch'en's "A Friend Advises Me to Stop Drinking"

As a preacher's kid I never drank
A lot but the Army served
Up two bottles of cold beer every
Day in Vietnam to keep us cool.
Now I'm almost a sage with
Dental bridges and canals and a smooth
Old head. I do like cold whites
Yet lately I'm counting the bottles
In the blue recycle box we
Set out by the curb.
I wonder how many is too many.
Sometimes when we're out my wife will always
Ask if I can get
Us back to where
We started out. I'm still in the mid
Range price so I haven't even begun
To find the fine
Grapes one reads about these days.
The dark reds are maybe even better
For letting the blood run
Fast and smooth, my doc
Says, so I could lay off a
Night or two confined to just plump grapes
In anticipation of that next cold crisp sip.

After Long Restorative Poses in a Morning Yoga Class, I Go Back,
Again, to Vietnam, with Sung Tung P'o's "At Gold Hill Monastery"

I don't ever want to return
To what I could call home
In the Song Chang River valley.
From there I directed cannon
Fire on wandering NVA or VC
A few klicks from the South
China Sea. On a South Florida beach
I told my wife how much
A trip back would do me good.
Old vets have made their way
There, building schools and clinics
To make something that was not
There. If I ever
Did go back, and won't, I'd have
A terrible time just trying
To find which Hill it was
Not ever having taken tours
Unless you'd call a walk
From one bunker to
The next with helmet
And flak jacket as a stroll.
We looked to the mountains
Just inside Laos
So every sunset we'd climb up
High onto our roofs
And gaze far out into postcard vistas
So peaceful we thought monks might
Find a place to chant some
Peace that we all
Wished would find its way past
Here to somewhere
Where those who knew how to
Converse could find something
Each side knew how to agree
Around some dignitary's Parisian table
Despite all the tons of napalm
Dropped low for great despair
Making who were all below
Glow like melting shining light
Or Agent Orange which ruined every
Range of trees so we
Could simply see who's on the Trail.
I haven’t slept too well
Though all the ghosts have come
To rest somewhere in the back part
Of what's left of what's up there.
Old movies bring this all back
Even though I keep loading
Old howitzers as if I'd never left.
I may not ever
Think of landing again at this old
Miserable monastery of men as nothing
Good every came from there.
I have, though, thought of travelling
To visit those still chanting monks.
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.