|Oct/Nov 2011 Poetry|
Mosaic artwork by Laura Robbins
The Artist Shen Chou Is Dissatisfied
I've not finished my book.
My spirit goes wandering in the sky.
Who can fathom it?
—Inscription,"Reading in the Autumn," Shen Chou, 1427-1509
As you see,
I have painted from far-off
the mountain-face, pine trees
clinging to its brow,
and, smallest of all, a reader.
Were I to pluck all but one hair
from my brush,
I could not show you the words
he is reading
nor his conversation
with the book,
what thoughts have passed
between the two,
whether the place he has chosen,
mountain refuge, trees and clouds,
draws them together or apart.
No. For this there must be poetry.
Even then, how can I say
the sound of a leaf in mid-descent,
the breath between the cicada's calls?
The reader might say,
"Put down your brush
as I have set aside my book.
Accept for now art's limits;
yield instead to spirit,
the limitlessness of sky."