Some assembly is required

For awhile they burned
Embers red hot in my mind
Ever present bright
Now they are scattered ashes
Dull grey lost along the way

Things that were once shared
Become the sole property
Of others—castoff
Childhood toys with a warning
Some assembly is required

AGG20161205

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An ember under your breath

For the first few months
After—you would rarely smile
And never laugh—now
You’ve begun again—my heart
An ember under your breath

AGG201128
for Cutty after his stroke

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Foul-mouthed Sweet People

As you’d say, “Fuckface,
You’ve been dead sixteen years now. ”
If you could know though
You would know—not forgotten
Still there are silent spaces

You once filled for us all with
Profanity and kindness

AGG20161101

Depth Charge: Written on the 16th Anniversary of Bob Read’s death.

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
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To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffinjust click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

 

Moon Tanka for Eliza’s Birthday

And you with the moon
Make this strange world stranger still
Changing shape and shade
With incarnations
For the curious to share

AGG20161101

Depth Charge: Eliza Griffiths will be exhibiting new works at ELLEPHANT, 1201 rue St-Dominique, Montréal, Qc H2X 2W3 Canada, 5/11/2016 – 17/12/2016. Vernissage: November 5, 2016, 16:00 – 20:00. Image:Detail of painting by Eliza Griffiths.

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
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Now missing forty-nine beats

After days of heat
The rain sizzles on the leaves
Here and there a drop
Eludes the green canopy
Joins with others on my cheek

Still my rage burns hot
For queers caught in the crossfire
Christianity
Islam hate terror and guns
America’s toxic mix

I excuse no one
I point ten fingers of blame
Pound both of my fists
And curse you all left and right
For the lives lost on that night

Our pulse continues
Pumping the red human blood
You still won’t accept
Equal in worth to your own—
Now missing forty-nine beats

AGG20160622

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”
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Unexaggerated

The news of your death
As unexaggerated
As it’s heartbreaking
Continues to ricochet
All around the Internet

Today a message
Months and months after the fact
Ambushed by fresh grief
Over what should be old wounds—
Sorrow keeps its own schedule

AGG20160505
(for Ziad Ghaoui d. 2014)

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Arab Hunchbacks

You’ve forever ruined
All Arab hunchbacks for me
Ziad by being
Completely sweet and strange and
Dead so I can’t stand seeing

Reminders of you
Today is my fifty-fifth
Birthday and I am
Happy leaving the metro
Until I see another

You were a marvel
And constantly surprising
And I thought a friend
Of such unique proportions
A companion ’til old age

You laughing—singing
It was my birthday party
Two years ago now
We didn’t know then it’d be
The second-last time we’d speak

AGG20160318
(for Ziad Ghaoui)

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014 Photo by MIchael Leon

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The Luxury: A Response to “Bowl of Green Jade”, Attributed to LI Qingzhao

子曰:「學而時習之,不亦說乎?有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎?人不知而不慍,不亦君子乎?」
The Master said, “Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?”
Confucius, The Analects, Translated by James Legge

The leaves fell for you
One final time—red and gold
Fifteen years later
Red and gold—falling again
Do you think they remember?

Now a southern wind
Moistens all the fallen leaves
A tropical storm
Awake at night I listen
To its final tears streaming

The most dramatic
Season—beginning in heat
Ending with the frost—
The fall is only one-third
Over—bare branches creaking

Tonight I will share
Food with a mutual friend
In from out of town
As always we’ll talk of you
And then slip into silence

It’s a luxury
Really to have someone else
To share memories
Of the dead—I pity those
Who talk only to tombstones

AGG20151030

Tune: Bowl of Green Jade

Spring’ s glory-how far is it advanced?
Two-thirds already gone.
Lush foliage deep in verdure,
Red blossoms all smiles:
Are barely passable.
A courtyard shadowy under weeping willows,
A room with curtains brushed by warm breeze:
Here’s someone withering away!

A riot of flowers on sale for my choosing
I ride through the streets of Chang’an, wine my freight—
What are these beside the peach and plum of my native hills?
Blame not the east wind bringing tears to a wanderer’s eyes!
Nostalgic feelings are hard to express;
Cherished dreams—a mere illusion.
What can I do but return to my home town?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

Depth Charge: This poem is almost everywhere attributed to Ouyang Xiu, not Li Qingzhao.

青玉案欧阳修
一年春事都来几,早过了、三之二。绿暗红嫣浑可事。绿杨庭院,暖风廉幕,有个人憔悴。
买花载酒长安市,又争似、家山见桃李。不枉东风吹客泪。相思难表,梦魂无据,惟有归来是。

Qīng yù àn Ouyáng Xiū
Yī niánchūn shì dōu lái jǐ , zǎoguòle, sān zhī èr . Lǜ àn hóng yān hún kě shì . Lǜ yáng tíngyuàn, nuǎn fēng lián mù, yǒu gèrén qiáocuì.
Mǎi huā zài jiǔ cháng’ān shì , yòu zhēng sì, jiāshān jiàn táolǐ . Bù wǎng dōngfēng chuī kè lèi . Xiāngsī nán biǎo, mèng hún wú jù, wéiyǒu guīlái shì .

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A Carload of Poets: A Response to “Bowl of Green Jade” by Li Qingzhao

A small island  
In a  sea of secrets, some 
As big as a blue whale, others 
As tiny as a sand flea, 
Dangerous conversations fuelled 
By Ten Pennies and Crown Royal, 
Bio-luminescent sparks, 
Dark—winter-night dark, 
Bright—impossible-star bright, 
Accented words echoing stark  
Rhythms, as endless as the water and sky  
When they merge into that singular colour 
The one that means reflected need. 
 
Remind me one more time,
Why did we all hurry to leave?
 
 
A couple have since returned  
Like the eagles, the cormorants and the crows, 
To find such purpose as may be found, perched 
Beside eroding red cliffs, 
The rest of us   
Touchdown, 
Take off,  
Singly, or in small groups,  
But rarely in the autumn, 
After the yellowing leaves have all fallen, 
When we might eavesdrop 
On the sky as it comes right down
In cold, streaking tears 
To trouble the waters  
With whispers of woe and wonder. 
 
AGG20151005 

Tune: Bowl of Green Jade
A Fortuitous Meeting
by Li Qingzhao

Haste not back so soon!
No glimpse yet of Handan Road 1
For all our peregrinations.
Autumn wind so dreary,
How are we to while our days away?
A drink under a clear window,
An idle chat beside a dim lamp,
Would be the ideal way to relax.

Each laments her declining years as we meet,
Chanting many a new verse with thrilling rhymes—
Poetic talent a family tradition people much prize.2
Now frail and decrepit,
Nothing remains to me but profuse tears
Falling like rain in the season of yellowing plums.

1 Legend has it that a scholar named Lu, while travelling on Handan Road, met a Taoist priest who gave him a magic pillow. When he went to sleep, he dreamed that he passed several decades living in wealth and prosperity. But on waking he found that the pot of millet he had left boiling on the stove was not yet done.

2 One day Xie An the Imperial Tutor (c. third century) was at home with his nephew Xie Lang and niece Xie Taoyun when it suddenly began to snow. He asked each of them good-humoredly what the snowflakes looked like. Xie Lang thought they might be likened to grains of salt dropped from the air. But Taoyun said the simile wasn’t so good as ‘willow catkins whirling in the wind’. Thenceforth ‘salt and willow catkin’ came to be regarded as a family tradition of literary talent.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

青玉案 李清照
征鞍不见邯郸路。莫便匆匆归去。秋正萧条何以度。明窗小酌,暗灯清话,最好流连处。相逢各自伤迟暮。独把新诗诵奇句。盐絮家风[1]人所许。如今憔悴,但馀双泪,一似黄梅雨。

Qīng yù àn Lǐ Qīngzhào
Zhēng ān bùjiàn hándān lù. Mò biàn cōngcōng guī qù. Qiū zhèng xiāotiáo héyǐ dù. Míng chuāng xiǎo zhuó, àn dēng qīng huà, zuì hǎo liúlián chù. Xiāngféng gèzì shāng chímù. Dú bǎ xīnshī sòng qí jù. Yán xù jiā fēng [1] rén suǒ xǔ. Rújīn qiáocuì, dàn yú shuāng lèi, yī sì huáng méiyǔ.

Green/jade/vessel Li Qinzhao
Jounery/saddle/not/see/Han-dan/road, Do not/easily/hurry-hurry/return/go. Autumn/just/bleak/desolate/which/manner/pass. Brigh/window/small-talk, dim/lamp/light/clear/talk, most/good/linger-on/place. Chance-meeting/each-one/wounded/past-prime. Alone/seize/new/poetry/recite aloud/wonderful/phrases. Salt/willow catkin/household/fashion/people/therein/praise. As of/now/thin/pallid, yet/remains/a pair/tears, one/resemble/yellow/plum/rain.

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”

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To the stringent rhythms of chance

Sweet potatoes, salted-cod,
Catfish—whiskers scissored off,
Plantain, pork ribs, aubergine,
Roasted, deep-fried, gently steamed,
Both the savoury and the sweet,
Vegetables, fish and meat,
The mixing of these flavours
Manifesting the favour
Your presence, with gentle grace,
Bestows on us in this place,
To make this took untold hours,
Only minutes to devour.

The evening ends with a dance
To the stringent rhythms of chance.

AGG20150523
(This poem is a thank you to Alain
who cooked us a Congolese meal
on his 39th birthday
and then led us in a dance.)