- The Way to Jade Mountain
1 upstream, downstream
after Li Bai, for Shujen Wang
I steered the river against its current,dawn a brightly colored veil of mist
where the gorges rose like palace walls,a thousand miles up, a thousand back
until nightfall, and heard from both banksthe monkeys' numberless, deafening cries
behind my boat, now always with me,the ten thousand mountains coming to pass.
2 mountain temple
Tonight, to make this mountain my home,a temple's tall tower edging the cliff,
I'll reach my hand with the same gesture,a man standing tiptoe from a ladder's height
who would pluck the living fruit of the stars.But let me be quiet, catch the stillness
less than a whisper, less than a breath,for fear I'll disturb the people of heaven. [End Page 119]
3 neither here, nor there
I've been staring so long at my facein my wine—suddenly it's dusk.
A blizzard of dogwood blossomshas fallen, making my clothes a dune.
I'm so drunk I walk out intothe stream, the moon there, the sky.
The birds, I think, must be far away,like everybody else. Except me.
4 sitting alone
Birds are flying in great rings out there,it looks like where sky thins into space;
out there, where a lone cloud is floatinglike someone without anyplace to go.
We look at each other, the mountainand me, as though we'd do so forever.
Until it welcomes me under its shelter.Until there is nothing else but the mountain. [End Page 120]
Daniel Tobin is the author of eight books of poems, including Blood Labors (2018) and From Nothing (2016), and a book of versions from the German of Paul Celan, The Stone in the Air (2018). His honors include the Massachusetts Book Award, the Julia Ward Howe Award, the Stephen Meringoff Award, and fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation.