Published in the 2017 issue of the Roanoke Review.
Your days were as our sleep
on the warmest of summer nights
can be to us: a drifting through bliss
like one who has fallen asleep in a rowboat.
Heaven and earth were born with the stirrings
of your wings like larva in chrysalis.
The countable distance between them diminished
and they inchwormed into the samara of an elm tree.
The rower drifting, his dreaming is his rowing.
Take the case of the sage whose books
would fill five wagons; can he prevent
the moth from devouring his pages?
The rower’s hand hanging over the gunwale, each finger also a leaf.
Take the case of the sage and the logician,
standing on a bridge over the Hao river,
debating the pleasures of minnows and fish,
a time before beginnings, when pupa preceded their eggs.
The case of the swan that does not need a bleaching
to swan on in its whiteness,
nor does the crow ask for an inking
to crow on in its blackness.
The rower’s eyelids slammed shut like the pages of the sage’s book,
upon another rower drifting, eyespots of land’s peacock,
sunspots of the sky’s brightest blot.
Take the case of the caterpillar
who ate the leaf it was born under.
The case of the chemist
who poisoned the drinking water.
The oakleaf falls and falling flies,
perching upon a tepal of the rower’s lotus-blooming dream.
You left the Great Inner Room of Heart and Mind
through the window for the pollinated repose of sky
and the sky between the rower’s branching fingers
became a bowl you joyously drummed upon at your wife’s funeral.
The water of consciousness was spilled
the imago complete, when you turned the rice bowl over
and it fills the universe still,
the rower upon its lake.
Take the case of the sage on the bridge
who politely throws stones
as the rower drifts beneath his bridge.
The emperors you admonished
possessed not even a mustard seed’s worth of your life.
Thus they could not even move the mountain of dung they sat on.
We will forgive them that
as even the purest colored of swans at night
is as the darkest crow in day.
But that night: were you Seer only dreaming yourself as butterfly,
or butterfly dreaming yourself to be Seer? O strange Metamorphosis.