Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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Li Po Loved Two Things
     High as a skylark
     I rest in the sky of this mountain pass

Li Po loved two things: waterfalls and drinking

when the emperor summoned him
he was drunk in a bar

Li Po wrote back:
          excuse me from your court today
          I am a drunken hermit

worn like these stones
water rushes past me
branches and trunks form dams
          those leaning-together houses
                                                            the fish stocks disappearing
                       a tree standing still in the flooded creek

I left because there were whole towns without work
houses worth less than the water heater
fishing hamlets without roads
houses clustered around the docks
docks clustered around the fish houses
we were a generation that shipped out
there are a thousand songs about us
sung by those who stayed

the news says they’ve found growing numbers of cod
to me now, the stocks are still down
twenty years dropping, and twenty years when not one boat went out
it’s not that they are fishing again
it’s just that they might
and my laced-arm friends? my moose-land woods?
could we come back
could they stitch us into the salt air
the wind-bent pines
a kitchen

a mist-damp coat
the lingering blue dusk
are they counting us?

                                   Basho looking down over the falls
                                                                 in another country
                                                              hundreds of years later
                                                           picking flowers for Li Po

            if this is the middle path
            if I had to fight
            if I were called to court
            I’d fight with sticks
            with ice-cold water, with direct sunlight
            with reckless wind-spun seeds, the outer edge of a kite tail
            the fairgrounds, the spinning teacups
            if I had to pick two things to love

fish don’t have ears
but they make love songs to find other fish

water is eight hundred times more dense than air

the body of a fish is as dense as water

they don’t hear sound waves, they absorb them  

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