CONFUCIUS AT NIGHT

The Master said, “Extreme is my decay. For a long time I have not dreamed as once I was wont to do…”
Analects, VII.5

Sick of
lullabies.
The outer wall
is the one thing left
of the world.

From my bed
I wander the
palace:
the Emperor
in slumber;
the chambermaid
with the silver
tray of perfumes;
the night gardener
who deadheads
the peonies,
erases
the bamboo’s hourly growth.

Somewhere
morning comes
already,
white men
trawling fish.
Dreams

tell you how
to live
in the absence
of life. Life
tells you nothing.

Where is the Duke of Chu?

My slippers are made of silk
so fine I cannot feel
that I walk at all.

Heat lightning
across the sky.
The form
of a satisfied
insect.

If I was glib,
if I was wrong,
at least I had
visions.

The only
sound
in my palace
of silent
acts is
the Emperor turning over.
This poem is the winner of the Francis Bergen Prize for Poetry