December 16, 2010

without fail our thoughts in these vexing times
are with the emperor lonesome in his icy
palace sunk in his unremitting silence

a spy was trampled at the jasper gate
the eastern garrison has run out of rice
one hears of a decree to round up and
butcher young maidens for the soldiers’ stew
i give it little faith although the neighbor’s
youngest’s been missing two nights in a row

the new servant took off was gone till midnight
came back without his cap reeking of wine
the jurchen are within the walls he says
and at the plaza by the pearl shrine blood
was ankle-deep glistening like a black mirror
he’s been too insolent of late the steward
must be requested to apply the rod
those jurchen are just a ruse for their ilk

a visit from the venerable yi
his brittle sheets of tang calligraphy
obtained from a bookseller for a trifle
trifle indeed but who would want to hurt
a friend i had them fetch some wine and plums
the last of the old stock but it was worth it
never an evening was so full of mirth
on his way back the venerable yi
was torn out of his litter thrushed to death
with canes those jurchen nothing but a ruse

a conflagration this time in the west
the guards will have their work cut out for them
curse the old gown all matted and it’s cold
should have dispatched them to stock up on brushwood
but there’s no one to send and none for sale
how splendid is the moon in the black velvet
of the night sky in the black silk of smoke

looks like the fire is aiming for the palace
from where the stables should be and the harem
i haven’t cleaned my brush the ink is dry
the emperor may be godlike but he feels
the fear we know he is afraid for us
but we alas have hardly any words
left to console him



June 25, 2010

the lady at the opposite subway seat
has finished off her nondescript repast
something she angled daintily piece by piece
from a brown bag chasing it down with carrot
juice and the final tranche is now dispatched
into her eager gullet the carrot juice
was clearly labeled as such but on the other
hand what it was she ate while in plain view
is mystery something i’ll never know and
what happens next is anybody’s guess

what happens is of course a traveling band
hailing from some mesoamerican
republic bursts into the car at roosevelt
with a sad but powerful song of which the lyrics
are greek to me because it is in spanish
followed by an amazing trick or two
performed by a self-taught magician who
insists that i must hold a piece of twine
which i obediently grasp attempting not
to move my eyes away from my sony reader
and never see what the twine was about

there’s more before we ever cross the east river
a roving man of cloth with a tumultuous
voice treats us to a homily
turns out we all should give away our worldly
possessions and abstain from storing treasures
on earth but rather store them up in heaven
along the preacher’s arm a verdict runs
tattooed in a fossil script which reads not guilty

i look around who are you my coerced
playmates sad lot unhappy multitudes
why are you thrown into this moveable feast
squeezed like sardines into the planet’s bowels
i may consult the sony reader which
is my sole current source of wisdom but
i doubt it will enlighten me as to
what it was she consumed from her brown bag
as to the carrot juice the doubts are groundless