Our cat is up the tree again; I hear her cry
over the lonely tattering of prayer flags worn
to transparency by the wind. I try tempting
her down with heart minced the way
she likes it, still warm from the gutted
body of the deer. I build a bridge
from our roof to the end of her branch
so she can pad across and I can rescue her.
But no, it’s as if she clings to the high
dying hemlock because she has
something she wants me to see.
Later, with the moon rising I climb back
onto our roof with my flashlight, her eyes,
two shiny plum pits summoning me. She
is happy now that I have come just to sit
patiently and watch from this height
the river empty into the sea.
The first alder leaves on the road after
last night’s wind, those still clinging
to the trees blowing silver. If you ask me
again what I want it is to make
peace with the part of me that insists
I exist, like the scratching of our old cat
at the back door when the north wind blows.
We eluded beauty and went
right to the truth, evaded happiness
and went for the weeping. I loved you
with the tenderness we save
for something that will ruin our lives.
Never mind the lies, the promises
you couldn’t keep. They are small
mysteries, like the blowing milkweed silk.
Small flocks of twitchy sandpipers
scoot out on the tide; a pheasant
stutters from the ditch into the trees.
All my life, right and wrong
tangled. A falcon stoops
in a steep glide.
After the first snowfall I find
a winter wren frozen on the forest path.
Who could have imagined it:
even the birds are freezing.
As I push through earth locked in sorrow,
in ice, find a hollow between rocks
where her body will lie, a winter wren lights
on the handle of my shovel.
The day we set out to dig
our old cat’s grave under the looming
hoary cedars, the dark came down
early, blowing snow clouds
over the hills. I thought the going
doesn’t get any easier. We are
the broken heart of this world.
Perhaps this is all
I have left to do
to bow, at the least,
to the plum blossoms
in all those ancient
love poems loosely
translated from the Chinese.