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Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- Of cabbages -- and kings -- And why the sea is boiling hot -- And whether pigs have wings.

Updated: 2018-03-22T23:45:40.343-04:00


Like snow, falling


"poetry lights up life from time to time like snow, falling, and you have achieved a great deal already if you have kept eyes to see it."

- Philippe Jaccottet, from Seedtime

(translated from the French by Andre Lefevere)

In Short


"It seems to me that when you write a short story, you have to cut off both the beginning and the end. We writers do most of our lying in those spaces. You must write shorter, to make it as short as possible.”

- Anton Chekhov

(from: the NYRB blog)

Shades of Eternal Night


(image) R.I.P. Cy Twombly

[Image taken from here]

All in the mind


Reading Marcia Angell's piece in the latest NYRB on the treatment of mental illness (an interesting read btw), I found myself wondering if it really makes sense to speak of placebo effects in the context of mental disease. If you believe you're less depressed, aren't you, in fact, less depressed? And if a course of treatment can make you believe you're less depressed, then doesn't that make it a valid cure for your condition, even if it has no chemical or physiological benefits whatsoever?

In other words, what if the most effective treatment for depression were to create the illusion of treatment: administering what are basically sugar pills, but convincing the patient, through a combination of advertising and pseudo-scientific research that he / she is getting better? A treatment that would work just so long as the illusion lasted?



All winter the snow made the roads impassable
I wrote page after page thinking of you.

Now the water flows free down the mountain
And I must decide if these words are worth sending.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Sound of the Mountain


You say you don't understand
Why I listen to the mountains.

If I could find a true stranger
I could explain myself.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Cat and The Butterflies


I sit in the yard and watch
My cat chasing butterflies.

I admire his technique.
I hope they get away.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Open Road


No more shall I be tempted
By the welcoming road.

He who has no door
Cannot leave it open.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Friendship of Strangers


Brief as a storm is the friendship of strangers
Just two days since we first met

Yet the sound of laughter flooding my house
Makes me forget the rain outside.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Home is where the hatred is


privacy of self-

the need to be/long

these are the songs
you were born to

battle lines drawn
in the powdered cocaine

white as the snow
on TV

a frenzy contained

you claim
for your own


more a direction
than a state

an addiction
to hate

you run away from
come back to



Where does it stop?

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?

Or the cops.

You think this is a joke?

this is your mouth talking smack
these are your words up in smoke

this is the man at the door
come to repossess your pride

this is the voice you keep inside

this is the rainbow of no choice
on a blood-slicked street

this is the sound of your feet
in the neighborhood of soul

the sound of defeat

the sound of illegal heartbeats
brought and sold
on every street corner

this is the dream of honor

of violence betrayed

in words
in breath

the instruments we have left
uniting to say

the day of your death
was a black Black day.

R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron


the song this post takes its title from

NY Times obit
New Yorker profile

Awaiting the storm


Having touched the great river with my fingertips
I am ready to offer my hands to the rain

The wind blows from the North tonight
And the forest is full of empty gestures.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Crane


Reflection of crane standing
On one foot in the water

The silence between us
I cannot describe.

- Hu Ming-Xiang



The rooster in my courtyard
Claims the sun for his own.

Far away the snowcapped peaks
Blush to be discovered

- Hu Ming-Xiang



You said you were sorry
Your words as soft

As the last snow falling
On the first cherry blossoms.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Unseen Mountain


Who questions the mountain's presence
Hidden away behind the clouds?

Let others speak of faith and doubt
I am silent with sincerity.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Cuckoo


All day a cuckoo across the valley
Repeats its foolish hope.

Until we leave off talk and listen
As though in answer.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Singing on the lake strand


The waves make a music so subtle
Only the stones can hear

I feared my songs didn't move you
Until I saw you wink.

- Hu Ming-Xiang



I sit in the white cloud's shadow
It passes and I know
The wind is blowing.

I sit in the mountain's shadow
It passes and I know
The sun has shifted.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Spiral Way


Searching for the peak
I advance in circles

Like a knife peeling
The skin of a fruit.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Crow


There are those who keep orioles in well-wrought cages
I have only this crow I feed when I can

She comes and goes through my open window
Bringing twigs and dead morsels, sometimes a leaf.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Rowing Across


A man with two oars chooses no sides,
Keeps his balance, travels fast.

A man with only one pays attention
To the currents, struggles to find his way.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Winter Song


Fledgling snow in the nightingale's nest
And the sky aches with ten thousand stars.

Sometimes, when the night is still
I hear, far away, the gibbons calling.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Last Watch


I too have lain awake at night
And heard the watchman calling the hours.

I too have woken to an unlocked door
Grateful for all the thief left behind.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Old Man's Winter Night


I am too old to throw stones at the moon
But sometimes, when the night is dark
I will step out, and raise my lantern
High above my face as if to seek the stars.

- Hu Ming-Xiang



Emptying a jar of clear water
I disturb the tranquil well.

How can I tell the peace I feel
And not break into words?

- Hu Ming-Xiang