—after Su Dongpo’s “Reading Meng Jiao”
Reading awful poems late at night,
each word scratchy as a hog’s bristles,
my eyes ache and blur in the dimming light.
I don’t find one good line, one image,
one single flower piercing the mud—
only ponderous “ideas,” heavy
as boulders clogging a clear stream.
Or worse, it’s like eating bony little fish—
or boiled crabs, and breaking out in hives!
Nothing I hear or see tonight
is comfort or anodyne, nothing
to lose myself in for part of an hour …
Our lives passed like a morning mist,
or a flame whose candle’s burned away.
Why strain listening for beautiful music
in the witless peeps of an insect,
when I can just put the book aside
and study your last woodcut—blue night,
rain pelting the riddling moonlight
on a blue-black bay—more wondrous
than words on a page. Better for me.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Democrats’ War at Home
How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans
How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.
Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses
Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.
How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.
How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully
On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.