The Journey

Song of the Road At Seventy-Four


Trimming the Pages of an Old Book

Cutting the pages' coarse edges with a letter opener
Given me years ago by Kelly Townsend
Then seeking art that maybe made him money too
The book: a small edition of Tu Fu
With photographs of the great paintings
Tai-Wen Chin, Mu-hoi, Maniyama, Ashikawa
Virtually all in Japanese hands now...

Tu-Fu wrote of the human catastrophe––
His poverty, his separated family,
The constant abuse that is war
The torment of uncertain return
The edition was small, only a thousand copies
Printed in Portland, Maine, 1929
Coming from the unknown Mosher Press
Second-hand to me and for a pittance

He was unknown in the West then
The publisher made certain to print
This was the first book outside China
By Tu Fu, indeed the first
By any individual Chinese poet

It has taken nearly a century
To cut the quarter-fold pages
And read from them eighty-eight years on:
"Tu Fu Wanderer and Minstral
Under Moons of Cathay"
The ancient country name Cathayin use for centuries
From when Marco Polo returned to Venice
Himself following the lead of Jewish traders
On the Silk Road reversing the Flood migrations

The trimmed edges look good
Tu Fu wrote the poems, Mosher Press
Printed the pages and hand-bound the fascicles
I bared the inked lines to lamplight
The new moon seemingly moves unseen
From back of Pine Mountain’s Eastern ridge
Appearing tomorrow on the sea
Following its ancient fate


WJ Ray
Willits, California

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