12th Century Chinese Painting with a Few Dozen Seal Imprints Across It


The tea has given way to plum wine,
and still they're talking, animated down to points
of fire deep in their pupils–two scholars. "Look,"
one motions at what's outside the sliding panels: landscape
where the purling of river leads to foothills,
then to the tree-frowzed mountains themselves, and
up from there . . . . The sky
has opened. Out of it, as large as temple gongs
yet floating as easily as snowflakes, pour
transistor circuits, maps of topiaries, cattle brands,
IUDs, the floorplans of stockades, cartouches,
hibachi grills, lace doilywork, horsecollars,
laboratory mouse-mazes, brain-impressions, all of it
sketching the air like a show of translucent
kites in blacks and reds, a few beginning
(Look, there . . .") to snag in the treeline, or hover
above the whorling bunched rush of a riverbend . . . .
"You see?" says one with a shrug and eloquent
tenting-up of his eyebrows, "You see?"–he's
too polite to declaim it in words.
They've been arguing if The Other World exists.


Albert Goldbarth, The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007, Graywolf Press, 2007.