Friday, February 27, 2015

Dick Allen: "You May Leave a Memory, or You Can Be Feted by Crows"

Three years, Huang Gongwang
worked on his famous handscroll,
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

As he put successive applications of ink to paper
over the “one burst of creation,” his original design,
it is said he often sang like a tree frog
and danced on his old bare feet.

One day, he adds one hemp fiber stroke,
the next a moss dot.

What patience he had,
like a cat who comes back season after season to a mole’s tunnel.

Honors may go to others.
Riches may go to others.
Huang Gongwang has one great job to do.

And he sings like a tree frog,
and he dances on old bare feet.

"You May Leave a Memory, or You Can Be Feted by Crows" by Dick Allen. Text as published in Poetry (December, 2011). Reprinted by permission of the poet. Allen's most recent book is This Shadowy Place: Poems.

Art credit: Detail of "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains," scroll painting completed 1347-1350 C.E., by Huang Gongwang.


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