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Book of Changes

I
Wind river
Ocean airs
Clouds race
Birds watch
From shelter
With anchor feet.
Sounds stretched thin.

“The Creative is heaven.
It is round, it is the prince,
The father, jade, metal, cold, ice;
It is deep red, a good horse, a lean horse,
A wild horse, tree fruit.”

II
News from far off
Sorrow and treachery.
Collecting radish seeds
As they ripen
Between the rains.

“The great prince issues commands
Founds estates, vests families with fiefs.
Inferior people should not be employed.”

III
Dawn already in the east.
Rain in the west.
We wait for news, and names.
The kettle bubbles.

“The well. The town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
It neither increases nor decreases.
They come and go and draw from the well.
If one gets down almost to the water
And the rope does not go all the way,
Or the jug breaks, it brings misfortune.”

IV
Standing still,
All the flock, backs turned
To the wind.
When the storm is over
The grass shall taste sweeter.

“Innocence. Supreme success.
Perseverance furthers.
If someone is not as he should be,
He has misfortune,
And it does not further him
To undertake anything.”

I recently picked up a copy of Richard Wilhelm’s “I Ching or book of changes”. I had it many years ago, and though it is probably not the best translation, it carries a certain, stately grandeur in its language. This morning, in stormy weather, I decided to see what happened combining a few short verses I had written with random selections from the book. Meaningless and meaningful. Everything becomes oracular. Juxtaposition revealing the mysteries of the mundane.

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INK WASH

open window.
now and then:
sighing cars
roll by.

gutters muttering
in light summer
rain.

time caught
on cobwebs,
lost in cloud.

sedge grasses flower,
green trees
statue-still.

Li Po hums
and sketches
silence.

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BEYOND SPITE INN (haiku)

Cuckoo echoes cuckoo
Beyond Spite Inn
The road rises into cloud

This valley folds the green road
Rain drips from the copper beech
Grass bends over tumbled walls.

On Brynffo the spirits drift
Light as thistledown between the firs.
The sound of running water is their voice.

On Esgair Fwyog the sheep graze new grass.
The rain has melted distance.
A line of hills rest in sunlight

A sunlit hill.
Clouds shift.
It melts in rain.
Sound of running water

The steep slopes of Brynffo
Pine needles and the smell of bracken
Moving waters whispering

Lost in the dark forest
Whisps of mist drift aimless
Enjoying cool silence.

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THE THISTLES

Cloud is down over the hills again.
It drifts and rolls between field and forest.
The valley is lain out soft and still green;
It does not mind the warm rain.
There is not silence, but it feels like silence.
Sheep shorn and the hay is in.
The thistles have a royal flower:
In deserted places, proud,
Like ancient tribes before the Romans came,
They gather and stand still.

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SPITE INN

June settles in,
Warm and fine and easy.
Beyond Spite Inn
Clouds roll through the wet grasses.
Two cuckoos praise each other
Across the oak valley floor.
The old roads drip green.


Spite Inn is a ruined, but preserved, building on the road between Tirabad and Cyngordy on the northern slopes of the Eppynt. It is likely a drover’s resting place, and its name is thought to derive from its rivalry with another nearby inn.

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JUNE DRIFT

I am as blurred as the cleft of Cwm Dwfnant shrugged with cloud,
shunned in its darkness, up hanging from the heights, silent as a hawk.

like ladders the thistles grow, straight and high, and the sedges hustle
the grasses, cropped short, and rain-laden.

the woods, a hushed audience, wait for rain
that is as welcome as the sun, as welcome as the long, pale dawns,
as welcome as the naked starlit evenings.

sallow seed slides and drifts, amnesiac angels, bounced on warm air,
and shallow cool down by the gurgling river’s bank.

and the globeflowers at Nant Y Bran bursting and butter-bright as suns
on their long green necks. and yet they still cannot look into tomorrow.

where shall be ever planted the sweet heads of valerian
and the meadowsweet foaming up through the coming of another summer.

light drizzle rains down, slowly drifting east. a cuckoo mist, a cuckoo silence.
I am blurred as the sources of all rivers are, nominal, approximate.

this white drift is a moment that now dissolves the hills
and clarifies by shimmer and shade the valley’s deep and every fold.

the unknown and the known are not new dreams to us.
they clothe us and wrap us round, swaddled and held still, a long lullaby,
sometimes with words, sometimes with sounds,
sometimes with a warm breath
that is itself no different than love.

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These blurred, cool days are best,
Soaked with fresh green airs
Hedgerows smudged with bluebells,
Cowslip clouds lolling heavy in the grass
And the rivers running brown and full
Over hollows and heaped grey rock.
And everywhere the blackbirds sing
On wooded slopes,
And the flit and flick of swallows
In the slow rain.

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