a short collection of poems
Very few are remembered.
I have tried, you see, to change this
(as much as is possible)
for in every scrap of paper there is a ghost.
The trouble, after finding them,
is in hearing their voice,
in feeling their presence,
in imagining what was left behind.
If, at the end of your life
you remain only as a single word,
a scrawled note, preserved by chance
you will have done better than most.
It was something I would not forget,
I wrote it down nevertheless.
In the old days, I worked mostly
on papyrus and pot shard—
but times are changing,
This is my incomplete canon:
see it not as a splendid tapestry
but as threads in the darkness,
voices from the abyss.
Beyond the Valley
Once, one summer,
a summer that could not have been,
we walked together, hand in hand,
step by step, towards a place beyond the valley.
We followed a trail of soft pine needles,
through a forest, densely packed,
through junipers, and bamboo,
and aspens, just like the ones we remember
from that other summer, just how long ago . . .
The trail was lined with statues:
hewn of granite, covered in autumnal moss,
figures still half trapped in the stone.
We followed, and I knew. I knew we had
moved past the place we had been,
moved towards the nothing, the undiscovered.
In the clearing, we would find streams
for swimming, grass for resting, air
tinted by leaves and petals, slow roads
leading anywhere, for a day or two, stars
we could step into for a dance.
It would remain with me for ever,
though it remained unglimpsed.
We have found it, you told me,
we have found it: a place without time.
It is a story you’ve heard before. We met in the library. He searched for arcane truths and I stayed out of the sun. We spent many hours of our youth debating Ethics—was our friendship useful, pleasant, or good? And were our days, our lives, to be well utilized or squandered? He nursed hopes of being the great scholar of our era, and I wrote stories of war on stolen paper.
These things tend to complete themselves. Our last night together he still smelled like oil and stained our bed sheets with sweat. His body was bronze and fine, but there was no love to be had, for his shaking sobs. He left before I woke and soon took a spear to the ribs, which pierced through to his shoulder. He bled out onto dust.
I learned of this from a letter with a printed seal. Along with it came a ring of silver, touched in gold, for his memory.
I still write my stories of war. I wonder why what undercuts our ambitions gives us so much pleasure when read from afar.