Friday, October 28, 2011

Poets Read at Occupy Boston

Yesterday, Oct. 27, in Dewey Square, Boston, Don McLagan tries to keep his poems dry.

Rain picks up. People begin to gather for the reading.

It was my turn. I read "Buying Flowers," a poem from the T'ang Dynasty, which speaks for the poor man in the "emperor's city." As I read this 8th century poem, I felt part of a cycle of voices. Rain spotted the page.

Buying Flowers

Late spring in this emperor’s city,

horses and carts clattering past:

it’s peony season on the avenues

and the people stream out to buy.

They won’t be this cheap for long.

At these prices, anyone can buy.

Showing five delicate whites amid

hundreds of huge luminous reds,

they rig canopies to shelter them

and bamboo screens to shield them,

sprinkle them, stand them in mud,

keeping their color rich and fresh.

Families come back day after day:

people just can’t shake their spell.

Happening by the flower markets,

an old man from a farm somewhere

gazes down and sighs to himself,

a sight no one here could fathom:

a single clutch of bottomless color

sells for taxes on ten village farms.

Po Chu-i (772-846 C.E.)

Translated from the Chinese by David Hinton

J. took the photo. Po Chu-i's poem set in spring, in the imperial city, fits the fall day in Boston. That red umbrella is a rain-spotted peony, and the folder in my hand a big petal. Let's stop there before metaphors taken too far become absurd.

Friday, October 7, 2011


It was marvelous to see this still life in a private apartment near Harvard Square. Someone arranged it for the passerby, kept the shade up. I wonder what happens at night. I wonder whether the still life is lit then.

Duck, horse, church, red tassel, sage, shoebox, carrousel riders but no carrousel. What else is there? What can you see? Not the absent person. Do you make altar-like arrangements like this one?

On another day, this time at the pond: snarled, useless fishing line and fly caught the light.

Fretted leaves make shadows.

October days: I want to be out, in them.