Reading poetry written more than a millennium before us, by a Chinese poet living quietly in the country, among pines and mossy rocks, beside a pond, sometimes meditating, sometimes rejoicing with friends, lamenting the losses of age with old friends, drinking wine, sometimes to excess, all serve to remind us how similar our private thoughts and responses are over time. Unlike reading about members of the same nation today, that bring out contrasts, these images, all conflated and rolling over one another in the mind, bring out the timelessness and similarity of private memory and experience of the changing states of mind of a long life. Po Chu I.
Like roiling golden fall leaves,
images formed from words
brushed onto neural pathways
by the brush of a Chinese poet
roll through my mind,
reflecting the sun,
flecks from a fragmented set of images:
green bamboo, a scattering of red winter leaves,
a still pond, a mossy monastery wall,
a half full jar of wine, memories of shared friendships,
former glory, trees planted only to share their blossoms.
Like an animated movie
whose bright frames of color remain
even when the story line has faded,
the poems of Po Chu I
bring forward smatterings of a reality more than ten centuries old,
recorded by a civil servant, a regional ruler really,
who alone had time to sit and ponder and reflect.