The low grasses, the tall trees: which of them tempts spring to return?
In fall, the trees flaunted their dying leaves; the grasses withered, leaving us melancholy.
Now they vie in beauty, tempting spring to return.
Even the poplar and the subtle elm offer up their pallid blossoms to the wind
To overflow the sky, to fly like snow, to tempt spring to return.
A younger me would have stood on his head
To prove the earth and sky are of a size
Then seeing beneath his feet the sunlit clouds
Strode off upon that opalescent path.
These days the sun has turned her face from me.
The autumn wind flings tiny knives of frost.
Far down below, the slow east river flows
Beset with whitecaps, fishing boats, and gulls.
Yes, younger, I’d have turned things upside-down:
The sparrows and the swallows at their nests,
The small birds perched among the date tree’s thorns,
All would have stopped, and quirked their heads to see!
But these days I’m no gymnast, me.
Sundown, I’ll sling my sword upon my back;
I’ll set my feet upon the dusty road
And head off down the mountain, muttering of home.
I heard his dog barking down by the creek, but when I tried to follow
A hard rain fell, scattering the peach blossoms, hiding the path.
I’ve long since lost the dog, the creek, the path; I can’t hear the temple bell,
And one stand of bamboo is like any other.
I think it’s spring now, or will be soon: it’s greener, anyhow,
And sometimes I see deer, off in the woods.
No one else can tell you the right way to go, that’s what he always said;
Meaning, I thought: Trust yourself. See where that’s got me?
This morning when you passed
Me and I followed
You on the sidewalk
Your shadow after you’d passed
Was right there in my way,
So I stepped on your shadow’s
Head. All the way down the sidewalk
I secretly followed,
Skipping discreetly, your shadow’s
Trail, stepping and stepping the whole way.