The Song Dynasty

A poem by Dan Beachy-Quick

 

One way to make snow in mountains

is to leave the paper blank

and ink in the crags and pines—

a scholar’s hut by the flowing stream

such cold water for the tea—

but there are other ways. The mind

 

makes its equal signs and leaves them

unspoken. A world

much thought about but thinking

leaves no trace. The blankness

snow is to the child

wrapped in her blanket. The snow

 

there even in June, the summer snow—

I know you know. Imagine

the solstice is a gong that rings out

an echo song—nothing

lasts longer than morning fog. Clouds

can be made just like the snow is made.

 

And so of mist, vague dews.

So of water dropping off a cliff.

So of the steam curling up

as the cup cools. You leave

the page blank and ink in the dark

dream of pines. Law

 

 

of the pines

the scholars of the Song Dynasty

discovered, painting the world on silk,

on paper. A principle called

Mind, or One. Fire, or

Mite. You

 

children of snow and

clouds can make snow and clouds

for yourselves. Find

on the blank page some oblivion

and add water to the ink-stone. A

drop or two. Begin by painting dew.

Dan Beachy-Quick is a poet, essayist, and translator. His work has been supported by the Monfort, Lannan, and Guggenheim Foundations. He teaches at Colorado state University, where he is a University Distinguished Teaching Scholar.

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