A Web Del Sol Chapbook Selection
William Slaughter



for Don Musselman

Your own orient,
the one small room
you live in

with its usual litter
of T’ang Dynasty

In the great tradition
we break bread

(for the last time)
and drink your best
and reddest

wine. We
remind ourselves
of the Chinese poets,

Tu Fu
and Li Po who drowned
‘trying to embrace

a moon
in the Yellow River.’
A thousand years

separate them from us
and from each other.
Heroic death

is no longer possible.
The only rivers we have,
the only moons,

are those
that shine inside us
as rivers and moons

now and then
do. We drown in them
but return again

as Chinese poets
or mythological birds,
putting on

or pale, fragile,
thin bodies of poems.

And how
does the world
serve us in our prime?

With what
rewards are we met?
We bring our poems

back with us
for want of nourishment
in death, and console

ourselves with wine.
‘At least we shall have

we say.
At least we shall have
our own small sons.

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