mixing lines from Wei Ying-wu and T’ao Ch’ien for friends both now and then dear to my heart: the ebb and flow of time

there is the ebb
and flow
of time
and we old friend
are participants
we are young
we are old
we embrace
countless times
in greeting in farewell
leaving each time
a thousand streams
of tears
wondering when
if ever
all this coming
and going
will end
and we can finally sit
in the shade
of some distant tree
a glass of whiskey
in our hands
and time
once and for all
on our side

faces oh faces

I see faces
more often than not
in other faces
it is as if
the people I know/knew
are here in people I pass
on the street in the market on the metro
these constant reminders
of who filtered through my life
could be disconcerting
if I wasn’t so used to it
there’s Alex reading a book
oh and Carl in the corner
staring out at sea
and Kathy on the bus
sitting next to the old man
who looks a bit like Albert
and there’s Vic
talking to that girl
whose name you can’t quite remember
Marion or Madeline
or something like that
the one who lived up the coast
from you in Malibu
who fell asleep
on the floor
at that reunion
at Joan Barnett’s
when Billy was showing us all
he could be sensitive
and that one there
she looks like that assistant producer
who took you for drinks
at the Brown Derby
something Kessler
her father was a poet
read at the bookstore
and who’s that there
in the grocery store
oops, not her
look away
too much memory there
too much for one day
faces oh faces
staring back at me
and time
is in present continuous
just like you hoped
it wouldn’t be


The Old Clocks by Rolf Jacobsen

The old clocks often have encouraging faces.
They are like those farmers in the big woods or in the mountains
Whose whole being contains some calm acceptance
As if they belonged to some other race than ours.
A race that has fought its way through its time down here
And has seen its unhappiness shrink back like grass
During that earlier period when the Earth was earth.

They are guests with us this time and they nod in tune to our distress
Next to our bed with their mild wisdom: it’s OK,
oh yes, oh yes, it’s OK, it’s OK.

translated by Robert Bly