Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Ripe to ramble"       [shi]

To begin to come to terms   with essential sadness
I sit and smoke a Djarum   on the lateday bench
it's a mystery   when we're able to clasp our gladness
is it destiny   that I've failed to find my wench?
at 50   maybe I'm ripe to ramble a while
at least   if I can but lift myself from the trench
I've shaved my beard   I'm told it's a Washington style
even sans mustache   I can hope to prove a mensch


Djarum: a popular cigarette imported from Indonesia (comprised of a mix of tobacco and cloves); I've found it available in New Delhi as well as DC. I first developed a liking for Djarums in San Francisco. The filterless variety is much preferred; it's strong but sweet, and (for cigar-smokers like myself) there's no need to inhale.

The 2nd and 3rd couplets of a shi should both, if possible, show grammatical parallelism (i.e. between the 2 lines of a couplet). I've largely ignored this feature in the present sequence; but am at last pulling in a hint of it in this poem. For this reason, I revised both those couplets. Earlier forms of them had been:
mysterious   are the springs of human gladness
it seems   I never found   my proper wench
at 50   maybe I'm ready to ramble a while
if I can but manage   to lift myself from the trench
-- but I'm finally getting around to the neglected desideratum of grammatical parallelism.

(I've a vague notion that, in some Hindu constructions of the human life cycle, the age of 50 is a time when a man may be permitted to enter a period of sanyas (renunciation, which can involve homeless wandering), although this would (in this schema) generally follow after the raising of a family (as a householder). At any rate, this schema merely plays lightly or dimly in the background of the title phrase, I'd say.)


This is no. 8 in a series, Chinese poems, late summer.

The ealier poems:
no. 1:   Rooftop Scene [Aug. 28]
no. 2:   "The basic problem" [Aug. 30]
no. 3:   Night Sounds [Aug. 31]
no. 4:   "The invitation" [Sept. 7]
no. 5:   "Do you know the way?" [Sept. 7]
no. 6:   Ancient Future [Sept. 8]
no. 7:   "Questions" [Sept. 10]


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