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Lao-Tzu’s Lost Passage/ Insight at Sixty

hour glass clockSometimes, five minutes,
minute.
Sometimes, five minutes,
a puddle of muddy water.
Sometimes, five minutes,
brain itch.
Therefore the sage accepts this “five minutes”
even if it feels like twenty-five,
laughs at its absurdity,
weeps at its longevity.
A mere parsleyworm
can it not leave a trail?
Therefore be brief
when it comes to speaking,
be concise
when it comes to writing.
Those who follow this
won’t need another five minutes.

 

Photo from Kevin Eikenberry

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Sweet Croissants

almond-croissants-set-of-15-cSweet Croissants

Sweet croissants, sweet croissants
powder-sugared sweet croissants
morning run to Good Life Grocery
pining for some sweet croissants
The bins were empty, delivery was late
no luck for any sweet croissant
chocolate, plain or almond crusted
for my baby sweet croissant
Read the papers, chatted with the clerk
she said her boyfriend would never run
out unshaven

to buy her a sweet croissant

At 7:30 they came smiling
chocolate, plain and almond crusted
Took them home and told my baby
how I waited for the sweet croissants
She gave me a kiss, patted my cheek, said,
Someone’s sweetheart is always sweeter
than one’s own sweet croissant

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

Photo credit: Williams-Sonoma

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Happy Chinese New Year of the Monkey

stock-illustration-82521615-year-of-the-monkey-papercut-frame-artYear of the Monkey, 2016

The key is not the money
The key is in the monkey
360 degrees a somersault
It’s the ultimate glee

The key can’t be the monkey
For he’s an absentee
Roiling in the cosmic dust
Mischief’s devotee

The key must be in money
For money makes you free
All things can be bought and sold
This uncanny latchkey

Money’s in the monkey
Monkey’s in the money
The progeny of heaven and earth
Life’s consummate lessee

Intelligence is money
that monkey can guarantee
To survive the wild and not get mauled
Use well this precious money

Craftiness is monkey
Scheming for your honey
When money is fraught with peril and fraud
One sneeze, all gone with the monkey

Well this money and monkey
Neither is a peewee
Now they join hands and take us all
Hurtling down the scree

 

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Blake in Chinese

Blake_manuscript_-_Never_pain_to_tell_thy_love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired to translate after reading a friend’s Chinese translation of this poem:

Never Seek to Tell Thy Love
by William Blake

Never seek to tell thy love
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
Silently, invisibly.

I told my love, I told my love,
I told her all my heart;
Trembling cold, in ghastly fears—
Ah! She doth depart.

Soon after she was gone from me,
A traveller came by;
Silently, invisibly
He took her with a sigh.

永不訴說你的愛
不言的愛方能存
因为那和風起動
悄悄地, 無影地

我告訴她, 我告訴她
我訴出我的心
在發抖的冷和恐懼中
啊! 她因此而別

她離開我不久之後
有一個旅人路過
悄悄地, 無影地
一嗟便把她帶走

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The Warsaw Chronicles 9

Choir, monument, crowd at Sacred Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The people of Warsaw commemorate Chopin’s death date (October 17, 1849) every five years to coincide with the international piano competition. Locals and tourists crowded into the Church of the Sacred Cross, where Chopin’s heart was interred. The ceremony began with the Mass. Bouquets of flowers were put in front of his monument. Then the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus performed Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. There was much love for the native son, whose music transcended the human struggles into poetry. At this moment, somewhere out in the cold streets of Germany, a Syrian pianist becomes the symbol of hope…

Bearer of the Sacred Cross

Emigration as a community was in a way born of defeat and not in order to forget. —Kamilla Pijanowska

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

In the multitude
some are workers
some are scholars
some are artists
one plays the piano.

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

He played in the streets
on his out of tuned piano
amid guns and grenades
he sang his songs.

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

People gathered around and raised their voices
although everything was destroyed.
Their lives might be untimely shorten
but their song would always remain.

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

They burned his piano
They silenced his band
The Pianist of Yarmouk
began his journey

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

from Syria to Turkey
from Greece to Macedonia
he dreams of playing the piano
in the streets of Berlin.

Kyrie elesion
in desperation
Christe elesion
a people move
Kyrie elesion
in desperation

In a dark night
Ludwika Chopin smuggled her brother’s heart
preserved in a jar filled with cognac
back to Poland and placed it at the Sacred Cross.

Where your treasure is, 
there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)

*

Notes: 

Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor is performed every five years on October 17, Chopin’s death date, at the Church of the Sacred Cross, where his heart was interred. 
Kyrie elesion, Christe elesion (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy)—text of the Requiem, after Introitus.
The Pianist of Yarmouk is a Syrian refugee. His story can be found on major media sites.

the pianist of Yarmouk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Church of the Sacred Cross by Millie Siu.
Photo of the Pianist of Yarmouk is from a youtube screen shot.

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The Warsaw Chronicles 8

Aimi Kobayashi

 

 

 

 

 

After Aimi Kobayashi and Kate Liu’s Performances On
Chopin’s E Minor Concerto

Cinderella in a blue shimmering gown
Got slapped on the behind by her fairy godmother.
She waltzed into the hall to thunderous applause
Began her dance on the ivory keyboard.

She couldn’t believe this wondrous night
A pumpkin coach being pulled by mice.
Agony entwined with ecstasy
She writhed with every crescendo.

Oh what a play thing, this concerto
How lovely, how sweet, how cute, how naughty
It tingled her spine, it made her cry
It made her smile, it made her sigh.

When midnight came a thundering
She rose from her seat, triumphant.
A loving hug from the mighty prince
She retreated to the wing to wait for her fate.

Athena came, pure white and Grecian.
Slim in her young form, not quite a woman.
Yet within her stealth, a cool fire
Intensified as the music swelled.

She let the vibrations charged her body.
Mouth half opened, toward Ether she stared.
When it was time she raised her arms,
“Hark! Hark, ye mortals,” thus spoke Athena,

“Romance is tenderness with intelligence
One must not do without the other.
Tread lightly on the field of sound
Lest harm is done to the hidden gems.”

She put on her helmet and held her spear
Charged straight to the end with Nike in her hand.
As she surveyed the hall of admirers
Her pensive face broke into a brilliant smile.

While men in tuxes are elegant and bold
Women in gowns add an extra spice.
All had been given, all had been told.
Fate in solemnity rolled the dice.

Kate Liu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aimi Kobayashi photo from Cubicle Code
Kate Liu photo by EPA from Straightstimes.com

 

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The Warsaw Chronicles 7

Seong Jin Cho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Seong-Jin Cho’s Performance of Chopin’s 24 Preludes

The imperfection comes
not from the perfection of the playing.
For perfect playing does not invoke
conflicts in emotions,
nor bring about pain and sufferings.
Sensing perfection,
one naturally gives up the rein,
passes control to the higher authority,
lets the guide reveal
one mystery after another,
and at the end applauds the marvelous journey,
the pleasant surprises,
while safely touched down on earth again.

This imperfection, therefore,
comes from a judgement,
a prejudice against the representative of a country:
the downward points of his upper lips
the single syllabic sound of his name
are reminders of the rape
in a summer night,
in the innocence of my youth
in the safety of a college dorm.

It is through this imperfection
that I write about a perfect performance
when memory has served its purpose of reminding.
But in the flow of music
it is nothing more.

*

Photo from opera plus.cz

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The Warsaw Chronicles 6

Dmitry Shiskin 390

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Dmitry Shiskin’s Performance of Chopin’s E Minor Concerto

Within the interlacing elements
Strong are the columns
your love—my death
rise from the bowels of sound
Chopin in protest
upholding angels
playing his Death March
letting in ethereal light
at a university’s workers demonstration
revealing heaven
a pot of fire next to the amplifiers
in all its wonderment.
burning contracts that were signed in blood
and the smearing cold rain of Warsaw.

“I think that I’m going off to die,” Chopin predicted
before leaving Poland, “and how awful it must be
to die somewhere else than where one has lived.”

Remnants of Syrian migrants passing through,
The train station has been swept clean.
Police walk through each compartment, looking
for a certain color—

“A gloomy harmony” with a legato
smooth as the erasure of history.

*

Note: “A gloomy harmony”—Fryderyk Chopin.

Photo from PhotoTelegram on Twitter

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The Warsaw Chronicles 5

Aljosa Jurinic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Aljosa Jurinic’s Performance of Chopin’s Etude Op.25 #11 (Winter Storm)

The pianist seizes time with his fingers—

Thunder, lightning
a deluge of gibberish
on roller-coaster
pounding waves on pounding hearts.

Bounded in their seats with all the doors closed
the audience is trapped in the elegant hall.
Merciless hammers. Screaming strings.
Rapid bullets shoot out
from the hollow of the great black box
The ghosts of men rise up
bracing the assault with their chests
power – anger – rage
ring in their ears, boiling the blood.
Bark! Mad dogs, bark
because mad dogs recognize the call
when they hear one
and soon the hall is filled
with the most primitive agreement:

kill or be killed.

If Chopin was not consumptive
he too would have wrung the cravens by the neck
and walked off the stage with a flip of his hair.

*

Photo credit: Fryderyk Chopin Institute

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The Warsaw Chronicles 4

Chopin's house in front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chopin’s birth place, Żelazowa Wola, was about an hour train ride west of Warsaw. Dominating this tiny village of 65 people (according to Wikipedia) is the historical museum with a visitor center. Chopin was six months old when the family moved from Żelazowa Wola to Warsaw. The house lay in ruins for many years and was rebuilt into a nobler house to commemorate the composer in the 1930’s. It was a chilly autumn day with sun and rain intermittent. There were many spiky shells and what appeared to be chestnuts on the ground. We were overjoyed! Gathered a whole bagful and took them back to cook. Alas the inside was bitter.

The Rebirth of Żelazowa Wola

Romance, laced with purpose
handles nature with white gloves
so that each utterance
whether a splatter of rain
a fiery bush among golden willows
or fallen leaves masking an autumn stream
is as delicate as the man—
his curled hair
his distinctive nose
his melancholic eyes
—is as sensitive as his fingers caressing the keyboard
as if it was a woman’s breast.

The house that was
burnt down ages ago.
It sheltered him as an infant
and bore the rawness of his cries.

The house that is,
a black and white elegant period structure
situates at the back of a reflective pond.
The immense garden, sloping hills,
his statues, now pensive with his hand on his heart,
now with a wing-like cape,
all bear semblance to the unattainable.
Piano music flows in the air, in a minor key.
Serenity, in this manifestation
seduces the pilgrims,
star gazers of the imagination,
they sleep walk
from one dream sequence to the next.

But for the lover who left his homeland
beauty was the clump of soil he held in his hand.

*

Photo by Millie Siu.

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