Dennis Maloney is the editor and publisher of the widely respected White Pine Press in Buffalo, NY. He is also a poet and translator. His works of translation include: The Stones of Chile by Pablo Neruda, The Landscape of Castile by Antonio Machado, Between the Floating Mist: Poems of Ryokan, and The Poet and the Sea by Juan Ramon Jimenez. A number of volumes of his own poetry have been published including The Map Is Not the Territory: Poems & Translations and Just Enough. His book of Yosano Akiko translations, Tangled Hair, was published in 2012 by Palisades Press. The poems shared here are from his latest poetry collection Visions of Tao Yuan Ming, published by Glass Lyre Press.
Poems from Visions of Tao Yuan Ming
A pine grows in the eastern garden.
Its beauty is hidden by overgrowth
until frost kisses everything else,
revealing its intricate branches.
Among the other plants, it went unnoticed
but now, standing alone, everyone is moved.
I hang my wine jug from a low branch
and occasionally gaze off in the distance.
Born into this dream — this illusion why should
I submit to the bonds of this world?
The official served one term in office
and realized he wasn’t made for these times.
He closed his gate and didn’t venture out,
quitting the world for the rest of his days.
The scholar returned home to his farm
and his reputation as a teacher grew.
Once you leave, there should be no thought of return.
What is there to doubt?
Leave for good — what more is there to say?
The world has imposed on me long enough.
Let’s have no more of this pointless chatter.
I prefer to follow my own path.
Good friends know my taste
and bring wine when they visit,
spreading mats under a pine.
A few cups make us tipsy.
Esteemed elders all jabbering at once,
we lose track of whose turn it is to pour.
When we lose our sense of self,
how can we decide what’s of value?
Uncertain where we are,
we find hidden depths in the wine.
The old master had a fondness for wine,
but poverty made it hard to come by.
So he had to wait for sympathetic students
who brought wine and asked their questions.
He would drink when the jug was passed
and answered all questions put to him.
The only time he refused to speak
was when one question was attached to another.
The good man obeys his own nature
and speaks or remains silent as the instant requires.