Sunday, July 31, 2011

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)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

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

R.I.P. Cy Twombly

[Image taken from here]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

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?

Sunday, June 05, 2011


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

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Crane

Reflection of crane standing
On one foot in the water

The silence between us
I cannot describe.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Saturday, April 30, 2011


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

Friday, April 29, 2011

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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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

Saturday, April 09, 2011

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

Thursday, April 07, 2011


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

The Lazy Shepherd

Others may chase their flocks all day
Pen them at night for fear of thieves.

I tie the river to me with a thread
Watch the moon chasing the clouds.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spring Landscape

White clouds and mountains look down
On the day so young beneath them.

Between perfect stillness and pure motion
The wanderer passes restlessly.

- Hu Ming-Xiang


No floods this year. Just the snow giving way
Little by little, and darkness every day delayed.

I got drunk so slowly I didn't notice
When my words to you stopped making sense.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, April 04, 2011

Flute Music

Thrown into the river, these crumpled pages
Unfurl and blossom at the water's touch.
Someone plays a flute in the village
The music stirs memories of you.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Passing Wave

Who stops to mourn the passing wave?
I have traveled far just to see the shore.
Now the tide fails beyond my reach
At the sight of sunset my heart breaks.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, March 28, 2011


Long did I mourn the death of chrysanthemums
Till my mouth grew fond of the taste.
The more I vow to harm only myself
The more I escape into the hurt of others.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prose by any other name

Since I'm entirely incapable of resisting a challenge like this:

The Iliac
Homer's epic poem about his pelvis.

O Hello
Well met in Cyprus

The Canterbury Ales
Straight, no Chaucer

Long-lasting protection

The bloodiest burger of them all

Midsummer Night's Ream
Printing documents at the last minute

Sensex and Sensibility
The intuitive way to play the stock market

Sensei and Sensibility
The True Story of Jane Austen's Japanese Lover

The Origin of the Spicies
The Evolution of Indian and Mexican food

Homeo and Juliet
The Capulet Guide to Alternate Medicine

Song of My Shelf
Whitman's book collection

Sub Liners
Wrapping sandwiches the Irish way

Olive Twist
Please, bartender, can I have some more martinis?

Bing and Nothingness
Existential Search

Bleak Hose
Underwear in the Victorian age

Oedipus T. Rex
Incest in the Jurassic age

Far from the Madding Crow
Critical Essays on Poe's Raven

Abslalom! Abslalom!
Winter Sports in Yoknapatawpha County

Finding happiness while your man's away at war

Rabbi, Run
Jewish anxiety in the suburbs

Trackstatus Logico-Philosophicus
The contents are everything that's in the Fed-Ex case

Wealth of Notions
Some ideas about the Economy

Dude the Obscure
The Lesser Known Lebowski

For the Union Dad
What to do when your wife's in Labor.

Jane Byre
What does he see in that stupid cow?

The Grapes of Wraith
The Vineyards of Angmar

Bardot Thodol
The Tibetan Book of Hot French Actresses

Get Anjali
How to score with the girl next door

The Weaves
Threads of Consciousness

The Holy Book of Old Monks

Update (a few more):

Sorrows of Young Weather
The Stormy Passions of Youth

Lorna Dune
Romance on Arrakis

The Dino Elegies
Every raptor is terrifying

The Cattle
Josef K. Cowboy

Rime of the Ancient Marinara
Pasta, pasta everywhere

King Solomon's Mine
Confessions of the Queen of Sheba

The Odds
Horace, Bookmaker

The insanity of leaving doors open

Prancing Horses

Others have praised the hundred horses
Dancing as one in the public square
Sweeter to me is the leap of a deer
Escaping, on impulse, he knows not what.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Thursday, March 24, 2011


No more flowers
And the bells of the village
Hang silent in the wind.

I fill my desk
With blank pages, refusing
To light a fire.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

My Silence

The highest mountain gathers the most snow
The deepest river flows most slowly.
I have thought about these words so long
I cannot tell my shadow from silence.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Last Raindrop

How long it took to gather
The strength to fall
One brief moment of radiance
And a touch you hardly feel.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The Storm

Birds singing into the wind
Too drenched to fly
A thousand fingers of rain
Pressed to your window.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, March 21, 2011


Rainbows shimmer and die
On the dragonfly's wing.
My heart is too fragile
For the colors you bring.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Conversation

Drinking together, just the one cup between us,
The wine soon tasted of both our mouths,
Back and forth so often I could not tell
If the wine made me drunk, or your words.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Sickness

Like one who, recovering from sickness, feels
His fever returning with each new ache
I stop to stare at each new flower, imagining
The Spring is a symptom of you.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Master's Horses

Praise to my master whose horses run
As swiftly now as when they were wild!
Running so swift over long distances
Carrying the weary weight of a man.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Untraced Thoughts

Moonlight through a cobweb
Makes a perfect shadow.
I wish that I could trace
My feelings into words.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, March 04, 2011

The caterpillar on the leaf

In the season of
Butterflies no one mourns the
Lost caterpillars.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Burst Plums

Unheard the ripened plums
Fell to the earth last night.
I must wash away these stains
Before my mistress wakes.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Pessimism's Ghost

It takes a particular kind of despair
To see the glass half emptied of air.

Night and Day

Proudly the sun sets!
To the bird flying home
The cry of her fledglings
Seems like a song.

Shyly the moon rises!
To the lover in the woods
The song of the nightingale
Sounds like weeping.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


I stand on the mountain
And the valley calls out to me
My voice when I shout
Echoing its loneliness.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Ends of the Road

Every stop on the road is someone's destination.
Other paths lie before us, other travelers come behind.

If the road ended tomorrow we would walk into the desert
Seeking a new horizon, distance our only guide.

Letting the wind erase our footprints so no one would follow
So anyone who came after would think we'd arrived.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The limit to martyrdom the cruelty of the human imagination.

There is a saint for every torture the pious mind can conceive.

Vague Memories

Flames chuckle over
The memory of lost forests
Old men around a fire
Speaking of love.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Gentle Luxury

The shapes I saw in the clouds once
Vanish in a puff of breeze
White petals afloat on the water
Proving my loss too light.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Lantern

Beauty does not demand attention
The wise have little need for speech.
Light shines from the glowing lantern
The paper does not catch on fire.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Just got back from a theater / dance performance by Sarah Michelson / Richard Maxwell which asks the important moral question: what if God is a sadistic personal trainer and life just an endless series of high energy aerobics (to overly loud music) whose only purpose is to see how long it takes you to collapse of exhaustion?

The shame of it is that Maxwell's text for the performance is really quite beautiful - witty, moving and profound - which only serves to highlight how wooden and uninspired the choreography that goes with it really is.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Possibly Untrue

It is impossible to believe in impossibility.

What we call impossible is only what we believe to be always untrue. Just as when we speak of infinity we mean a number too big to count.

The Watermelon

All through the Spring it grew
Secretly, staying close to the ground.
Today you carved it open
Ate the red flesh, spat out the seeds.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

After the Fire

The butterflies have vanished mistaking
The falling ash for snow
In the burnt ruins of our garden
Embers glow like roses.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, February 04, 2011


The wind turns away with a sigh
Knowing its words weigh little
The leaf tongues the water
A thousand kisses ripple out.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The guilty flowers

How proud the flowers awaiting execution
Prisoners unashamed of their crimes
Who among us will hold his head so high
When the winter is finally done?

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


When you came from the river your hair was still wet
And I watched it dry in the summer breeze
Watched as each strand came slowly undone
Unable to keep the shape to which it clung.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, January 28, 2011


The wanderer's home is just over the horizon
Or so he must believe.
Tell me there is no end to suffering
So I may find relief.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Monday, January 24, 2011


R.I.P. Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011)

When you sang the Malhar
we could hear the trees growing,
hear the wood’s ancient
longing for rain,

your voice a season
exquisite with languor,
wild thunders tamed
to the purposes of song.

The night you sang Vande Mataram
we wanted to sing along,
your voice on the loudspeakers
flattened, distorted,

yet deep enough to contain
all our contradictions:
fifty years of freedom
and a tradition

older than grief.
That’s why I have to believe
you will outlast this pyre,
your throat an ember

burning pure and blue,
a constant outpouring,
at the center of the fire, a flame
endlessly wavering, endlessly true.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


prayer, heartbreak, memory

future, present, past

all the ways to mourn

pray, love, remember


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Open Window

Who is it reaches in through my window
A thief, or the moon?
Let the winds cover my room with dust
I hear the cicadas singing.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Better off

Returning from the war, you said nothing
And I, who had waited, felt betrayed.
Until I remembered my far-off sister
Who got back nothing but the news.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


One by one the birds have taken
Slivers of straw from the scarecrow's breast.
Here I am left alone forsaken
And you far away in your well-lined nest.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


You want me to tell you this is not the way out.

It isn't. But only because I never you let in.

You want me to tell you it is not time yet. And it isn't. It's tomorrow. Or the day before.

A speck of sand. A pinch of dust. A grain of ash. A mote of salt. Something sticks in the hourglass' throat.

You spend time like money, as though you could earn more if you needed it.

I have a bag full of stolen moments. I will sell them to you for a song.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Beginning

My master has gone to fetch his new bride
I shall strew his bed with fresh-plucked flowers.
Let others warm themselves at the fire
I shall find beauty in the raked ash.

- Hu Ming-Xiang