from Visions of Tao Yuan Ming
I heard a knock at my door early this morning
and in my haste put my robe on inside out.
I went to the door, asking “Who’s there”?
It was a concerned farmer who arrived
with a jug of wine from far away.
He suspected that I was at odds with my time.
“Shabbily dressed under a thatched roof
is not the way a gentleman should live.”
The world agrees on a course
and hopes you will join the muddy game.
My thanks for your suggestion old man,
but it’s my nature to be out of step.
Though you can learn to pull the reins,
to work against your nature is a real mistake.
So let’s just have another drink together,
there’s no turning back my carriage now.
I once made a distant journey
to the shore of the eastern sea,
the road long and far,
the way made difficult with waves and wind.
What drove me to make this journey?
It seems it was hunger me.
I labored hard to fill my belly,
when just a little would have been enough.
Realizing this was not an honorable course,
I turned my carriage and headed home.
A shade orchid grows in the courtyard
but its perfume is hidden, awaiting a breeze.
A fresh wind and suddenly its aroma
distinguishes it from the weeds.
Traveling on and on, one loses the path
but by trusting the Way, one might get through.
Awakening at last, I think of turning back.
“When the birds are gone the bow is put away”.
Dennis Maloney is the editor and publisher of the widely respected White Pine Press in Buffalo, NY. He is also a poet and translator. His works of translation include: The Stones of Chile by Pablo Neruda, The Landscape of Castile by Antonio Machado, Between the Floating Mist:Poems of Ryokan,and The Poet and the Sea by Juan Ramon Jimenez. A number of volumes of his own poetry have been published including The Map Is Not the Territory: Poems & Translations and Just Enough. His book Listening to Tao Yuan Ming is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. He divides his time between Buffalo, NY and Big Sur, CA.