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The Adversary


Coiled around you is he—
A little blacker than a shadow.

Before my lips reach yours
I have to push him from them.
That's why my kisses
Are so gentle.

He is also coiled around me.
Do you feel his scales as I?
Perhaps that's why we kiss at all—
I know so little.


You carry the dishes in your hands But your thoughts are elsewhere:

As if you inwardly knew
That in your kisses is the glow
Of Sobietsky and the heroes;

That your body has the pungent taste
Which the willow-tree and the rose
Perhaps feel in the soil;

And that your hair carries the fragrance
Of the willow and the rose itself.

To H. M.

A small tree Always surrounded by mist, More often dark but sometimes light— Very light, almost made of light. Yet even then between the branches There is shadow, a wavering gloom.

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Playing Horse

Like pools of light.
Where were you, child?

The horse stumbles,
Little one.


Miles and miles you traveled.

A wise brown bear
Rode you on his back; \
Then a bird hopped along
Or flew in front and explained;
And a stone sent a bearded one

With a book.

In your small warm nest you heard Bells rung delicately; and strange calls.

We built you a little house.
We hung up a sun and a moon,
And stars like apples.
The walls we painted red and blue.
We spread out carpets of Bagdad.
And three glasses with sweet wine
We stood in a corner.

Max Michelson


Adapted from the poet Yakura Sanjin, 1769

As I wandered through the eight hundred and eight streets of the city,

I saw nothing so beautiful
As the Women of the Green Houses,
With their girdles of spun gold,
And their long-sleeved dresses,
Colored like the graining of wood.
As they walk,
The hems of their outer garments flutter open,

And the blood-red linings glow like sharp-toothed maple leaves

In autumn.


Under the plum-blossoms are nightingales; But the sea is hidden in an egg-white mist, And they are silent.


The pool is edged with the blade-like leaves of irises. If I throw a stone into the placid water, It suddenly stiffens



Into rings and rings
Of sharp gold wire.


Walking beside the tree-peonies,
I saw a beetle
Whose wings were of black lacquer spotted with milk.
I would have caught it,
But it ran from me swiftly
And hid under the stone lotus
Which supports the Statue of Buddha.


Beyond the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden,
I hear the frogs in the blue-green rice-fields;
But the sword-shaped moon
Has cut my heart in two.
If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly
I could see to write you a letter.


Brighter than fireflies upon the Uji River Are your words in the dark, Beloved.

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