Friday, December 15, 2017



in the fourth watch the mountains spew up the moon,
in night’s remains, waters illuminate the tower—

in essence, a dusty case revealing a mirror,
curtains raising themselves in gusts to the topmost hook—

the Rabbit ought to ponder my crane-white hair,
but the Toad only longs for my sable coat—

I mull over the Widow Lady Chang-E,
how she bears the chill of the ninth month

based on Du Fu:

Chang-E is the Moon Goddess, & her companions are the Jade Rabbit (or Hare), who pounds herbs into the elixir of immortality, as well as a Toad, often depicted with three legs. Chang-E pilfered the herbs of immortality from her husband, the mythical archer Yi, & flew to the moon. In poetry, she is often a figure for loneliness.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Tang dynasty (618-906) bronze mirror with moon goddess and rabbit design. Photo by Wiki user Hiart [link provided on Common is empty], who publishes it under the following license: This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Locomotive

is no bigger than my thumb,
a tree’s straight-grained
fragment milled to a shape
implying dynamics,
but parked on the bookshelf
it doesn't budge an inch,
except as we all do in earth’s
thousand mile per hour spin—

the locomotive’s out of proportion
with the globe’s caravels
sailing two-dimensional seas;
the wall clock above,
with scalloped blossom edge, forms
a sort of compass rose,
& the ballast of books below—
                                             there’s not enough time to

read everything & still set foot on
a sailing ship bound for purple
mists on the horizon between Yachats &
Ise Jingu when the wind blows
from the west in summer filled with
invisible kanji & the steps of
Basho in the snow as he lost himself in
eternity beside sun & moon—

Asian pears in a bowl in the
kitchen; I could fetch one here
but I’m typing instead in syncopation
with the clock, thinking about painting
these walls light green perhaps;
the Anglo-Saxon grammar
on the bottom shelf & the crow
outside the window discuss winter—

beyond the carved

boxwood Guanyin on

the sill green


lean in to listen

Jack Hayes 
© 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Book

the book has boundaries without boundaries;
in that sense the book resembles a house: you

are born & die there again & again, you
hoist it on your back, you shrink into it, you

listen to raindrops tapping the skylight when
morning is gray & the chestnut burrs drop at

random onto the driveway & the blue car—
in every book a blue tandem bike waits parked

on its kickstand in the basement for that one
spin through the park on a blue & yellow June

afternoon; in every book a French press
stands half full on the counter; the sun breaks

through clouds to shine on the paperbark maple
next to the backyard swing—you are the perfect

reader, sleeping until the alarm clock chimes,
walking downstairs as if turning the pages

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dao De Jing 19

Dao De Jing 19

Reject sagacity, abandon expertise
& the people will benefit a hundred times over;
reject altruism, abandon morality,
and the people will return to benevolence;
reject ingenuity, abandon profit,
& thieves will no longer steal.
But these three are superficial & not in themselves sufficient.
Thus follow this directive:
manifest simplicity, embrace modesty,
diminish self-interest, curtail desire.

Laozi, 道德經
Translation by John Hayes
Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Xuan Yuan Inquires of the Dao”, scroll, color on silk, 32 x 152 cm. Xuan Yuan is the given name of the Yellow Emperor. This painting is based on the story that the Yellow Emperor went out to the Kongtong Mountains to meet with the famous Daoist sage Guangchengzi. Ming Dynasty.
Public domain.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Huazi Ridge

Huazi Ridge

birds fly off into the infinite;
on the mountain range autumn color returns—
walking up, walking down along Huazi ridge:
do grief & regret ever reach an end

Translation by Jack Hayes © 2017
based on Wang Wei: 華子 岡
huá zĭ gāng

Image links to its source in Wiki Commons:
Landscape attributed to Southern Song artist, Yamato Bunkan, Nara, Japan.
Public domain.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sent North on a Rainy Night

Sent North on a Rainy Night

you ask the date of my return: there’s no date;
in the Ba mountains ponds swell with autumn rain—

when may we again trim wicks by the west window,
and speak together about Ba mountain night rain

based on Li Shangyin: 夜雨寄北
yè yŭ jì běi

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Cloudy Mountains”: Mi Youren; 1130.
Public domain.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Taking Down A Trellis

Taking Down A Trellis

the bound sticks already wither & fall;
the gourd’s leaves turn wilted & sparse—

since its white flowers managed to bear fruit
how can green vines not accept this dismantling—

autumn insects’ voices haven’t gone away;
sparrows at dusk: what can they be thinking—

in the cold, things now fall to waste;
human life also has its beginnings

based on Du Fu: 除架
chú jià

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Early Autumn”: Qian Wuan. 13th Century; ink & colors on paper scroll.
Public domain