Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From the Han-Shan Sequence

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From the Han-Shan Sequence

Article excerpt

On the Third Anniversary of Shi-Te's Death

The Analects declare it is best

To withdraw from one's generation.

Next, to withdraw to another land.

Next, to leave because of a look.

Next best, to leave because of a word.

All of these advisements had applied

But none directly to Han-Shan's reason

For departing the capital.

Option was the least of it.

A kiss taken from the high

Cheek of the youngest princeling

Had sent him packing.

He recalls clearly the scent

Of the lemon tree on the wind

Blowing across the imperial garden,

Bringing with it the harsh

Arresting voices of the Emperor's

Minions and the cold seizure

Of manacles.

As he muses on past events,

The ancient clock in the second

Room of his house in the gray

Subdivision of government

Buildings strikes three times

Too many: time-warp aberration

Han-Shan has never learned

To correct.

Quick subtraction, however,

Sets the day right. At nine

Of the clock, the sun quarters

The fair mountain sky,

And Han-Shan enters his garden.

His blue shirt is immaculate. …

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