- Three Poems
In the dark vine climbing the flowers to the ten-pointed star in the arch of the hands in solemn prayer
in the journey of the eye to the height of the black colonnade in the tale of the boy who strums the harp
in the lotus shapes of the garden fountains in the room secluded by thick Arabian curtains
in the olivine waves that crash against the rock in the red and yellow roses broken from their stems
in the tawdry questions of the drunken man in the tripartite name of a red-lipped girl
in the song that rouses a sleeping mind in the nets we cast over His infinite forms
He casts his large eye on you behind a rock, your spear raised He swims past you like the sun over the earth He pulls your soul away and you break the surface [End Page 82]
Your line of dead fish floats to the ocean floor and you curse me, saying it was my prayer that loosened the string
Lean closer: if you had one breath left, what would you do?
With that, says Li Mu Bai to Shu Lien, I want to tell youI have always loved you
Gaze at the world with a mind like the emerald eye of the shark you pulled from the depths
What would you see? If you had one breath left, what would you say?
With each new moon the lama goes to Darjeeling to buy live fish from the market
In buckets, he takes them to rivers and lakes, blesses them, and sets them free
Freedom is what you think when the dolphin’s eye encloses you
Swimming away from you, he ensnares your soul and you break the surface hard, gasping for air
One breath will set you free [End Page 83]
Valentine’s Day 2011
Falling into dreams is the solace of poets Burned on an altar of old ideas Resting in a grave of ashes Your oft-repeated promises My faith, Casual to a fault.
In the immediacy of a home A cat pushes open the door And lets in the afternoon light Quiet flies on the voice of a bird Falls from the wings of the sky
The green cathedral, The death of Father Damien The surrender of imperial Japan As a bird turns in flight My hand twists in the attempt to make these lines
On a calendar known as today In a foreign place known as the mind I write, wondering if I still Know the language you speak
Purple, green, and black Make a beautiful night Down these streets a procession of cars A stream of grief Lines the face of a girl
Sultry heat, they say Characterizes summer, But might it also be the poet’s fever?
The poet wakes from her dream. [End Page 84]
Pat Matsueda was born in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, the daughter of a Japanese woman and a Japanese American soldier, and now lives in Honolulu.