The Journey

Song of the Road At Seventy-Four

Trimming the Pages of an Old Book

Cutting the pages' 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...

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
Which came from the unknown Mosher Press
Second-hand and for a pittance

He was unknown then in the West
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 hundred years
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 in use for centuries
Since Marco Polo returned home to Venice

The rough-trimmed edges look good
Tu Fu wrote the poems, the Mosher Press
Printed the pages, hand-bound the fascicles
I opened the inked lines to lamplight
The waxing moon fell backward
Behind the Eastern ridge, our source of water
The moon appears tomorrow in the West
Following its invisible way

WJ Ray
Willits, California

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