J. R. Solonche
Bio Note: I am the author of 22 books of poetry and coauthor of another. I live in the Hudson Valley.
Extract From the Notebooks of Zhao Li
Zhao Li counts his blessings, “One, two, three. That’s enough for me. If there were more, I’d give them to the needy.” Zhao Li has no use for religion. Especially for the Christian one, for, as he says, “It invented sin.” Zhao Li marvels at the evening primrose. Yesterday there was one, too few to count. Today there are too many. Sometimes Zhao Li is jealous. Of other poets, yes, to be sure. But mostly of the trees. Zhao Li says all men should have three friends. A drinking friend, a poetry friend, and most of all, a lady friend who knows nothing of drinking and poetry. Or everything. Zhao Li wants to write a poem about the purple clematis. Then he remembers he did last year. He writes it again now. Why not? It was good. A dark cloud passes between Zhao Li and the sun. He thanks the dark cloud on behalf of the sun. Zhao Li wishes it would rain. He is not alone. The flowers, the grass, the saplings, too, wish it would rain. Zhao Li has lots of regrets. The one now on his mind is that the phoebe abandoned her nest by his door. Zhao Li would like never to shave. One thing only prevents this: He has never met a woman who says she likes a beard. Someone asks Zhao Li, “Why do you stoop over?” “Because poems are not fruit to be picked from trees. Poems are roots to be pulled up from the ground,” he says. Someone asks Zhao Li, “Why do you repeat yourself?” Zhao Li smiles, then smiles again, then says, “Is repeating a smile repeating yourself?” “That is not my answer,” Zhao Li says. “My answer is this: If I do not repeat myself, whom shall I repeat?” “That is not my answer,” Zhao Li says. “This is my answer: “My heart teaches me that repeating yourself is good.” “That is not my answer,” Zhao Li says. “This is my answer: “Listen carefully to my voice, and you will hear that I do not repeat myself.” When Zhao Li wakes from a dream, he thinks he is still dreaming. Or he thinks his life has changed. When Zhao Li falls asleep, do not awaken him. His dream will awaken him soon enough. Zhao Li thinks, “When the day is beautiful, so one’s thoughts, too, should be beautiful. But why are they not?” This is what Zhao Li wants to be inscribed on his head stone: He cast a cold eye but with a twinkle in it. When Zhao Li was a young man, he had no ambition. Now as an old man, he has nothing else. When Zhao Li was a young man, he never dreamed he was an old man. Now he dreams that he dreams. When Zhao Li was a boy, he was cruel. He once burned a grasshopper at the stake for being a heretic. Zhao Li walks every day, but sometimes he likes to stop and stand in the middle of the road for no reason, which is the best way to do anything, including standing in the middle of the road.
©2021 J. R. Solonche
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