Li Po (701–62) | Gary Snyder (1930–)

“Between 3000 and 2500 years ago, ancient China underwent a cultural transformation very similar to that of the modern West: the transformation from a spiritualist to an empiricist worldview, which entailed a rediscovery of consciousness in its original nature as woven into the tissue of existence” (6).

-David Hinton

Wandering Up Ample-Gauze Creek on a Spring Day

At the canyon’s mouth, I’m singing. Soon
the path ends. People don’t go any higher.

I scramble up cliffs into impossible valleys,
and follow the creek back toward its source.

Up where newborn clouds rise over open rock,
a guest come into wildflower confusions,

I’m still lingering on, my climb unfinished,
as the sun sinks away west of peaks galore.


The Trail Is Not a Trail

I drove down the Freeway
And turned off at an exit
And went along a highway
Til it came to a sideroad
Drove up the sideroad
Til it turned to a dirt road
Full of bumps, and stopped.
Walked up a trail
But the trail got rough
And it faded away—
Out in the open,
Everywhere to go.


Reverence-Pavilion Mountain, Sitting Alone

Birds have vanished into deep skies.
A last cloud drifts away, all idleness.

Inexhaustible, this Mountain and I
gaze at each other, it alone remaining.


Piute Creek

One granite ridge
A tree, would be enough
Or even a rock, a small creek,
A bark shred in a pool.
Hill beyond hill, folded and twisted
Tough trees crammed
In thin stone fractures
A huge moon on it all, is too much.
The mind wanders. A million
Summers, night air still and the rocks
Warm.   Sky over endless mountains.
All the junk that goes with being human
Drops away, hard rock wavers
Even the heavy present seems to fail
This bubble of a heart.
Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in the dry air.

A clear, attentive mind
Has no meaning but that
Which sees is truly seen.
No one loves rock, yet we are here.
Night chills. A flick
In the moonlight
Slips into Juniper shadow:
Back there unseen
Cold proud eyes
Of Cougar or Coyote
Watch me rise and go.


On Yellow-Crane Tower, Farewell to Meng Hao-jan
Who’s Leaving for Yang-chou

From Yellow-Crane Tower, my old friend leaves the west.
Downstream to Yang-chou, late spring a haze of blossoms,

distant glints of lone sail vanish into emerald-green air:
nothing left but a river flowing on the borders of heaven.


August on Sourdough, A Visit from Dick Brewer

You hitched a thousand miles

north from San Francisco

Hiked up the mountainside     a mile in the air
Thy little cabin – one room –

walled in glass

Meadows and snowfields,     hundreds of peaks.
We lay in our sleeping bags

talking half the night;

Wind in the guy-cables      summer mountain rain.
Next morning I went with you

as far as the cliffs,

Loaned you my poncho –      the rain across the shale –
You down the snowfield

flapping in the wind

Waving a last goodbye      half hidden in the clouds
To go on hitching

clear to New York;

Me back to my mountain      and far, far, west.


Li Po (701–62) from The Selected Poems of Li Po and Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology, translated by David Hinton


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