Written and read by Rene J. Navarro
From the author’s collection, Ascension and Return: Poems of a Village Daoist
In West Lake, After Bai Juyi
I look at my image in the water
at Xihu: in the mirror of the lake
I see an old man, bearded, hair
thinning and grey, face marked
with deep worry lines on the forehead,
beside the eyes, along the cheeks.
70 years. How much longer
will I be here on this earth?
I walk up Baopu Temple and halfway
I stop to rest. I listen to my breath
and my heart, wipe the sweat
on my brows with my palm.
I too have lost my youth, my friend,
And I shall never find it again.*
How did Ge Hong do it?
Ten years ago I jogged up
these steps to the top, without
stopping, bowed to the altar
and looked down
on the red dragon on the roof.
Now, I hear my lungs wheezing,
my knees buckling under my own weight,
my eyesight fading. My friends
are all gone now. I, alone, remain
and I remember the time when
we used to stay up all night, drinking
the cheap wine in Sichuan, and
singing songs of the hills,
nibbling on pig’s heart
and chicken feet.
*Bai Juyi’s poem