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Sunday 16 February 2014

Under the Plum Tree


File:Chinesischer Maler des 12. Jahrhunderts (I) 001.jpg

Branch of Flowering White Jasmine: attributed to Zao Chang, early 12th century, album leaf painting, ink and color on silk, 24.9 × 27.1 cm (Shanghai Museum)

It’s a pity we have to suffer
The bluejay said to me with a wink
If any part of the body be cut off
No part of the soul perishes but
Is sucked into that soul that remains
In that which remains of the body
These aren’t tears anyway just eye gunk
And you’ve always taught me to be brave
As the last kindly rays of February
Sun warm bare ruined plum tree choirs
And light them up with a gaggle of buds
From which a few white blossoms are just
Starting to pop open as traffic hums
And in this moment there is nothing lost

Bird in a bamboo and plum tree thicket: Anonymous Chinese painter, 12th Century
File:Li Anzhong's Bird on a Branch.gif

Bird on a branch: Li Anzhong, late Northern / early Southern Song Dynasty, early to mid 12th century, album leaf  on silk, 25.4 x 26.9 cm (Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taibei)

File:Cloudy Mountains1.jpg

Cloudy Mountains: Mi Youren, Southern Song Dynasty, c. 1130 (Cleveland Museum of Art)


Hazen said...

Lovely. It’s high time we think of spring and plum trees and bluebirds. We’re still digging out here from under twenty point one official inches of snow. Yesterday morning a bluebird came to the feeder over the kitchen window. The wind was howling. It’s a hard winter for all sorts of creatures.

ACravan said...

The flow of this and what the words say will keep this one in my heart forever. I am absolutely sure of that. Yesterday, when it was already dark and we were arriving, I had an opportunity to consider and take stock of my own lack of bravery. We got stuck in very deep snow and I just couldn’t take it any more. Except that I needed to, there wasn’t any choice, and I became quite ashamed of myself. Earlier that day, in Pennsylvania (where the snow is also deep and the ice is treacherous), Caroline saw a flock of bluebirds. She thinks they were feeding on some yogurt and fruit that she had left for the animal population. Year in, year out, we rarely see a single bluebird. We even put up a bluebird house. Anyway, the birds were incredibly beautiful and my research indicates that they do flock. So I’m grateful for that avian harbinger of spring. Curtis

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, beautiful-and uplifting.

Unknown said...

Hi Mr. Clark, I am a music composition student at Indiana University and I was wondering if I might have your permission to use your poem "The Lake: Coda" (from the December 1967 issue of Poetry magazine) as the text for a piece of choral music that I plan on writing. If you'd prefer to contact me by email, my address is Thanks very much for your time, and for continuing to create such inspiring works of art!

Mose23 said...

Can't help but think off that fierce passage in the Beatitudes (casting off eyes and hands and such like).

That's a wonderful bird you have there - fit for a twelth century Chinese painting or a Tom Clark poem.

Sun warm bare ruined plum tree choirs

A variegated bloom of a line for a proper sonnet.

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

A truly lovely raw poem of direct seeing... The Immortals are definitely dancing. And the commentators (who seem to live right down the block from me here in Philadelphia) have put our own plight in perfect prose... Whenever I glimpse a cardinal, with wife, usually down below the hanging feeder out front, being from California, I get a real rush. And red against white... can't be beat. It's been such a Muhammad Ali winter here, one punch after another, and snow then ice then snow, that when I went out earlier today to cut the crust, I was surprised to find it so solid... like cutting through, I don't know, peat or something. While out your way you pray for water... (as the Muslims did a few days ago with positive results... And a really interesting detail, when the Prophet prayed for rain, peace be upon him, he first turned his cloak and his clothes inside out... Then prayed — to attract the drops with all openness?) All love to you and yours there where the traffic starts up and you don't have to gun your wheels over an ice wall... "and in this moment there is nothing lost." I'm still humming...

TC said...

First, Corey, thanks for your interest, and yes, that's fine.

And the glacial heart is once again thawed by kind words from sweet friends.

Your heroic rope-a-dope survivalism one and all -- it's become the stuff of local legend, here.

Our bluejays are extremely talky -- with each other -- but don't try to say a word when they're about -- they'll talk you under the plum tree straightaway!