Li Po Gets Drunk & Jumps in the River
Tonight I wanted to write a poem about a young girl who
chases a kite, or a balloon, or some phantom airplane
off the side of a mountain, plummeting to her death.
The poem I was going to write had to do with the way we all
at one time or another have wanted something
as desperately as this.
Li Po, sixty one years old, drunk, jumps from his boat
looking for fish, or for the moon, or for his own
reflection in the Yangtze River—
sinking towards an unknown burial.
The fish I was going to write about were going to be as ancient as
the moon or as old as Li Po, or the girl who was twelve
years old, going on infinite.
I was going to write about the way we all, at one time, have wanted
something as badly as this: the young girl running after her scarf
or an umbrella or a distant airplane, or toward her own destiny of
Then I glanced at the mountain of books beside my
bed, at the laundry huddled in the corner of the room like a
judgment—all of the ordinary signs of a full and crowded
life, branded by unspeakable dirt and quiet disregard.
I walked outside along the landing. I fell into a darkness
as old as the stars that weren’t there.
I thought of the mountains and of the moon reflected in the sea
somewhere. I thought of the laundry in the bedroom, the
books that will be waiting tomorrow—and the day after that—
for someone to bring them back to life again.