dreams of Lyon Place

I’ve been sleeping
looking for a dream
the place
my dog there
and my father
though neither knew
the other
both having lived
decades apart
my mother is cooking
I can smell her sauce
my grandmother
is kneading dough
for her cavatelli
Johnny and I
both get a piece
to roll
in our hands
before eating
my father stands
holding the dog’s leash
and before their walk
he pats my mother
on the ass
and says
that’s why
I married her
she giggles
like she always does
at that joke
and though it should be
taking the dog out
it is my father
his white shirt sleeves
rolled up
my grandmother sings
some Neapolitan song
Harry is there
George Robert
my sister Theresa
is coming
with the kids
a holiday
or just Sunday dinner
at two o’clock
Uncle Mike
from New Jersey
is there
my cousin Carolyn
Aunt Mary too
and Uncle Frank
watching Westerns
on TV
though he was dead
long before
Uncle Joe
with his cigar
in mouth
is dealing cards
Aunt Bernie Cousin Betty
are setting the table
Uncle Dominic
is mixing gin rickeys
Charlie is reading
The New York Times
on the back porch
my Grandfather
picking tomatoes
in the backyard
and suddenly
all the people
I’ve loved
are in one place
one house
on Lyon Place
and we will sing
my mother will dance
to Lou Monte
Calypso Italiano
George will know
all the words
and everyone
will laugh
the whole day

Early Autumn in the Mountains by Wen T’ing-yün

Here, next the mountain, the cold comes early,
Crisp and clear, the air in the thatched hut.
Barren trees admit the sun to the window,
The cistern, brimming full, is still and silent.
Fallen nuts mark the monkeys’ trail,
Dry leaves rustle to the passage of deer.
A plain zither–an untrammeled heart–
Hollowly accompanies the clear spring at night.

translated by William R. Schultz

A Spring Day in the Countryside by Wen T’ing-yün

Astride a mount pawing misty sedge grass,
How can one be resentful of the vernal spring
Where butterfly wings dust the flowers at dawn
And the backs of crows glisten everywhere in the setting sun;
Where lush willows compete with the fragrant sash,
And melancholy hills tighten kingfisher eyebrows.
The feeling of separation, what is there to say
But that the heart is an endless river of stars.

translated by William R. Schultz

on the LIRR


the blonde
two seats away
saying to her friend
I love Italian people too
but you have to appreciate
the differences
I just got over him
and I know if I went
to that house
I’d start seeing him
I get weak
in the knees
just thinking
about it


Saturday night
homeward bound
among swarms
of young LIers
heading in
to the city
they have recently
behaving typically
like young people
men with six-packs
women in short skirts
the din louder
than a Stones’ concert
and this one-time resident
he was home
several thousand miles

Returning East to Choukuei Village on Bathing Day: For Tuan by Wei Ying-wu

For thirty years an itinerant official
I no longer recognized the fields
but since it was my day to bathe
I traveled back to our village
the rains had stopped and the mountains were clear
The wind was warm and plants were thriving
the mountain-fed streams were deep and pure
the forests beginning to dance with light
but the bamboo was looking a bit sad
and the garden was nothing but weeds
and I was startled by the gray at your temples
and the sight of where we once played
and the heartbreaking news of departures
and the changes that had ravaged this place
I wanted to speak but who would care
and now I’m worrying about reports again
I’d be better off giving up this worldly career
fortune and fame are so hollow
compared to finally being with you
here in my declining and future years

translated by Red Pine

on shadows: for Steve

the world
has been reduced
to shadows
and though I sit
next to you
on the bench
you only see
a shadow
where my face is
the food
on your plate
the club soda
in your glass
are shadows
you know
the East River
is out there
can hear it
the seagulls calling
can even smell it
but it belongs
to a world
in shadow
that one day
will be black
and though you talk
of alternatives
there is fear
your words
as the rest
of your health
slips away
into shadows
taking you

Untitled Poem 3 by Li Shang-yin

East winds hush and sigh, and delicate spring rains arrive:
out beyond the lotus pond, there’s the whisper of thunder:

the golden moon-toad gnaws a lock open: incense drifts in:
jade tiger circles back, pulling silk rope to draw well-water:

the secret love of Lady Chia and young Han led to marriage,
and the Lo River goddess shared her bed with a Wei prince:

don’t hope for spring passion that rivals all those blossoms
burgeoning forth: an inch of longing’s just an inch of ash.

translated by David Hinton


UnTitled Poem 2 by Li Shang-yin

It’s so hard to be together, and so hard to part: a tender
east wind is powerless: the hundred blossoms crumble:

the heart-thread doesn’t end until the silkworm’s dead,
and tears don’t dry until the candle’s burnt into ash:

she grieves, seeing white hair in her morning mirror,
and chanting at night, she feels the chill of moonlight:

exquiste Paradise Mountain–it isn’t so very far away,
and that azure bird can show us the way back anytime.

translated by David Hinton