Vo l . 7 N o . 1
Looking at the Ferry Museum’s Salish Baskets
In Memory of Jim Petit
And suddenly I’m thinking of that cone of light that Saa Maa, your Master, helped you shape. Did you ascend without as much as a sigh or longing to be here for another day? I prayed that you’d find a marrow donor. “We have eight bodies and only one is flesh,” you said, “feel no sadness when I’m gone.” “I’ll soon be a Master, this tired body at rest.” You were always amused by my skepticism of your quest. Like your grandmother who twined your Salish basket, nature is my prism: alpenglow, bear grass, cedar, spawning tides. Last night’s frost that layered the grass like pollen glistened at dawn as if the stars had fallen.
Parnassus, the school’s literary magazine that still exists fifty years later. After Northern Essex, I attended Salem State College where I began the Penny Sheet, a mimeographed collection of student poetry that was sold in the cafeteria every Friday. That is how I met my wife, Sharyn, who was an associate editor. It’s also where I began wearing a tweed jacket and a long scarf and walking around carrying a book of Robert Lowell’s poems. I must have felt that looking like a poet might lead to becoming a poet. In my other life, I was the janitor who cleaned the administration building at night. I felt a connection to the poet Robert Lowell because his father spent his afternoons in the Maritime Museum at Salem when he was dying. It was a place where I spent many an afternoon looking at their collections that were brought back to Salem from the Far East during the 19th century. It is ironic that the ancient Chinese poets would become so important to me because at that time Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau were my guides. I
(From A Ladder of Cranes, University of Alaska Press, 2015)
To Wang Wei After Reading a New Translation of His Poems How bright the world an hour before dawn. Yesterday’s bare ground is covered with snow that fell while I slept and is falling still. Pearl-white clouds glow from deep within. They fill the room with their luminous light. I put the kettle on and sit by the window. I’m a glow worm who from time to time thought he was the moon until I read your poems. (From I Think of Those Ancient Chinese Poets, University of Alaska Press, 2011)