murphy’s wen siang

wen siang 01 the long journey
wen siang 02 wife of a soldier at war
wen siang 03 retiring early
wen siang 04 the sky is filled
wen siang 05 a sense of late spring
wen siang 06 the air at night
wen siang 07 the stream eternal
wen siang 08 a traveler alone
wen siang 09 looking at the moon
wen siang 10 night on the mountain
wen siang 11 the traveler alone
wen siang 12 sorrow
wen siang 13 thoughts of home
wen siang 14 lament of a soldiers wife
wen siang 15 a dream interrupted
wen siang 16 moon over the border mountains
wen siang 17 sleeping in the clouds
wen siang 18 pleasure
wen siang 19 third night of the moon
wen siang 20 a wandering man of magic
wen siang 21 a journey alone
wen siang 22 already in my sixtieth year
wen siang 23 hiding away
wen siang 24 a nomad at heart
wen siang 25 waking from a dream
wen siang 26 my mind
wen siang 27 why one shouldn’t neglect the mind
wen siang 28 ill at home alone
wen siang 29 this life of mine
wen siang 30 how long can one live
wen siang 31 sun on my back
wen siang 32 resting in the forest
wen siang 33 waiting for dawn
wen siang 34 a recluse in the mountains
wen siang 35 off the path
wen siang 36 old and wasting away
wen siang 37 cinnamon ways
wen siang 38 a hut hid away
wen siang 39 call of the birds of the night
wen siang 40 racing horses
wen siang 41 thinking of home
wen siang 42 thoughts from afar
wen siang 43 sleepless night of travel
wen siang 44 wandering far away
wen siang 45 another night of rain
wen siang 46 the weary traveler
wen siang 47 freedom of spirit
wen siang 48 west wind
wen siang 49 the clarity of night vision
wen siang 50 the way of this world
wen siang 51 human life must end
wen siang 52 old ideas
wen siang 53 finding the peace within nature
wen siang 54 relaxing into the night
wen siang 55 moonlight on a hot night
wen siang 56 emotions of an autumn night
wen siang 57 hungry for a safe haven
wen siang 58 the way of the world
wen siang 59 sitting alone at the edge of clouds
wen siang 60 a lifetime
wen siang 61 along the road
wen siang 62 extravagance is dangerous
wen siang 63 awake on a quiet evening
wen siang 64 abandoned roads
wen siang 65 returning at night
wen siang 66 joy of a morning
wen siang 67 sun’s first light
wen siang 68 the sun on the morning forest
wen siang 69 autumn scene
wen siang 70 thoughts at year’s end
wen siang 71 feeling the season
wen siang 72 feelings on a journey
wen siang 73 composed from a dream
wen siang 74 my body
wen siang 75 song of the silkworm women
wen siang 76 an old peasant’s story
wen siang 77 true pleasure
wen siang 78 the out of the way place
wen siang 79 staying in the country
wen siang 80 country men
wen siang 81 night time on a journey
wen siang 82 waking from a dream
wen siang 83 a stroll brings a special joy





wen siang 01

the long journey

the journey is long, ten thousand miles
the river grasses green as the water
but the grass fades in time, dies out
the long journey seems to never end

once qin had destroyed the six states of old
he drove the people to build the great wall
drove them to build it for thousands of miles
to hold out the fierce warriors from the north

the sand and water by the wall is so cold
my horse neighs in protest when i lead him to drink

those nameless men who built this wall
died here exhausted by their toil
who among them did not miss their homeland
they worried who would care for their parents
they grieved for their families left behind

their whitened bones were left strewn on the ground
their fat and blood fertilizing the meadows
their souls left to wander in desolation
how miserable the life of those builders
their shovels busy without a song to be heard

a country based on humane principles
feels itself safe and naturally secure
inhumanity brings calamity
wanton violence is not the way

our wise ancestors valued their serfs
the ghosts of high luminaries
watching from their family’s rooms

the dao of heaven abhors excess
the great wall was immensely too high
and did not save the qin from collapse
how can that compare with wiser rulers
who presided over peace without turmoil
perfect virtue is eternal, its grandeur cannot be named

murphy satisfied, warm and dry, with ample food





wen siang 02

wife of a soldier at war

he left right after their marriage
she became the one left behind
often now she thinks on that time
wishes she had not been so hasty

her husband far away at the northern war
time stretches long, and longer
the ravaged road goes on and on
geese fly south, but bring her no word

lonely and cold her bedroom now
the nights frigid, longer and longer
left to sleep with only her dreams

some say the daoists can shrink the earth
her foolish heart now desperate for that magic

murphy acutely observing the lives of others





wen siang 03

retiring early

i retire early when the weather turns cold
even before the sun has withdrawn its strength
and i never close the door to my small hut
then the mountain monkeys would be kept outside

the leaves of fall beat on my window’s curtains
as i lie abed it sounds much like the rain
i raise my head to gaze out at the western mountains
the moon has set intensifying the glitter of stars

murphy noting the southern trend of the setting sun





wen siang 04

the sky is filled

the sky is filled with ultimate truth
both other and self now forgotten
having steeled my iron of mind
why care that hair is gray as frost

clear spring’s water follows the valley floor
here up in the clouds sits a cozy old hut
here is where i have found my lasting peace
where bliss of silence seems to never end

murphy sloughing all but the small necessities





wen siang 05

a sense of late spring

the sense of spring is strong but almost gone
i stroll about the unblooming garden
a light breeze scatters the remaining red petals
a fine rain brings luster to luxuriant leaves

the sheer richness of the maturing green
is that of happiness, prosperity
the sad dispersal of the red
is that of dishonor, disgrace

yet through them both i see the world
how easily things overturn for us humans
lowly men may soar to the azure of clouds
aristocrats be slaughtered alone among crowds

calamity and good fortune have no fixed border
they alternate time, and time again
how can we trust today’s joyous song
will not turn tomorrow to sorrowful dirge

we should understand and take as guide for this world
the successful should not indulge their desires
the ice upon which you walk always grows thin
remember times change, and then change again

if you can learn to follow these precepts
your foot prints left may be those of a sage

murphy trusting nothing





wen siang 06

the air at night

the air at night
sometimes deepest darkness
the man who is free
is already awake and finished with dreams

the north wind snaps in the ear
the lamp inside the hut
flickers green from the rain

the mirror of awareness is
mind totally quiet

no objects remembered
the body quiescent

no ambition now
no riding on horseback
under the cold light of stars

murphy appreciative of silence





wen siang 07

the stream eternal

i lead my thoughts to quietude
beyond the realm of things
i nestle within leaves of the brush
scents of the mountain blooms

within the cavernous depths
springs the stream eternal
natural and purified
refreshing my balance of life

only death remains before me
all worries and thoughts behind
hermits leave no crush of footsteps
people even forget their names

murphy relaxed, waiting for the perch to bite





wen siang 08

a traveler alone

everyone else
ceaselessly working
the traveler alone
at ease with himself

no rules for him, no kow tows in mind
his journey long, no end in sight
his pockets empty, nothing of worth

his only companion, a cane as he walks
his only audience, the rocks as he talks

his only religion, if you should ask
a bowl of rice when he is hungry

murphy stripping everything down to essentials





wen siang 09

looking at the moon

i light incense in the quiet room
lean against the stone balustrade
i hum to myself now and then


from over the valley of the jade river
cascading down from the mountains
a bright silver bowl bursts forth

the stars disappear
the cold still light
shines through me

i cannot sleep all night
i go to look, i stare
at least 24 times

murphy the old lunatic at large





wen siang 10

night on the mountain

the air on the mountain
cool and soft this night

the spring flows through the shadows
whispering through the stony ravine

everything else comes still
existence an emptiness of sound

a small lamp burns in the corner
deep at the end of the old hall

outside the window, whiteness, a crescent moon
the heart of the traveler opens in wonder

from deep within he sings an olden tune
a breeze freshens, stirs the ancient pines

murphy breathing deep the forest





wen siang 11

the traveler alone

night and cicadas
ceaseless noise
crying in the dark
the traveler alone

there is no pleasure
within this night

high in the heavens above
the milky river of stars

it points to the west
place of a thousand peaks
all soaked in moonlight
the air water clear

murphy born alone, dying alone





wen siang 12


at least a million men came here
and vanished in the dust of battle
how few could keep body intact
once they set out to struggle here

who knows the number of generals
marching to war since ancient times
all of them now under the ground
bones feeding the green grass of the border

murphy a born pacifist at heart





wen siang 13

thoughts of home

my home lies far off in a secluded valley
it is thousands of miles away from here
since i left the spring breeze has come 49 times
i don’t go back, i have no fields to plant

all my dreams now are those of vistas
on tall mountains that beget swift rivers

murphy a long time ago, leaving texas for good





wen siang 14

lament of a soldiers wife

the heart lies heavy
separation is the cruelest hurt
three times he has left me

i sent him new clothes
still there is no word
my spring dreams gone

he said he would return
but i touch him not

murphy suffering from his first wife’s early death





wen siang15

a dream interrupted

back from a dream
i hear no human voices
only the sad whispering of tall trees

i rise to feel the breeze
alone i circle the pond
over and over i walk around

i look up to the many mountains
they push the snow higher and higher
up to greet the light of the silvery moon

murphy never able to get back to where he was





wen siang 16

moon over the border mountains

the moon rises over the eastern sea
bringing its cool white light
shining on the pass in the western mountains

men are on the march
far, far from their homes
in the moonlight they dream of return

dreams are also born in bedrooms
those left behind when traveling west
but these separate dreams remain separate

the men march along the road
thier longing for home beaten deep within
aging their faces, baring their pain and their grief

alien flutes beset their ears
sad, so bitterly sad

yes an impossibility
like taking away this moon
shining on the border mountains

throughout the night
tears well forth
tears in silver waves

murphy in the marines on a fifty mile forced march





wen siang 17

sleeping in the clouds

a stranger who hides in the mountains
my ways are lazy, simple and crude
i don’t care if the sky turns upside down
the earth can somersault for all i care
i do not mind at all

my bedding is straw, my clothes are hemp
i live high in a mountain sanctuary
i have a one room house of reeds
it’s always filled with mists from the clouds
i like the vanishing trails they leave
as they gradually thin out in the sun

here and now i make my oath
to always be a friend to the clouds
all day long i will lie in the mists of the clouds
time has a way then to be forgotten

i return from my dreams
note that the sun is now sharing its warmth
on my bed within the clouds

mindless i lie, no thought of this or that
my body relaxed, at ease
building stronger, making deeper
my love for the billowing clouds

in some later year i will pass away
leave behind nothing but the clouds
and the clouds will surely show their sorrow
at the absurd brevity of my life

murphy in a state of reverie at dawn by the river





wen siang 18


i am in my seventy seventh year
i am indeed an old man
hidden away high in the mountains
eyes becoming cloudy, ears exhausted

it is as though i were blind and deaf
living simply by the rivers where they are born
thoroughly beyond the bloated ego of self
long ago i lost my taste for vanity

my mind though is still made of iron
my gut a stone milling the coarsest of foods
i rest peacefully in the cool of the evenings
i can easily imagine becoming worse off

i might have become a man of authority
but the problems with this are difficult to convey
today’s people simply do not understand

it is only the moon hanging above
sailing alone through the high sky
it alone understands this pleasure of mine

murphy reveling in the silence of nature’s sounds





wen siang 19

third night of the moon

a new moon’s sliver, a woman’s moth eyebrow
their beauty lasts for only a limited time
though the moon lacks its bright shining light
the outline of its disk is beginning to fatten

on the fifteenth night it will be full
then it will waste away day by day
human life is follows a similar course
success, failure… failure, success, one then the other

murphy the old lunatic at large





wen siang 20

a wandering man of magic

i have never liked constriction
the limiting nature of the human world
my lifelong ambition has been to join
ancient men of magic, as an equal, as a friend

i sit in an imposed silence to achieve
the open void of the greater universe
time after time until i am on familiar terms

in the morning i often fly into the purest heaven
at night i always manage to get my rest
sleeping often in the orchard or the garden

already outside, both heaven and earth
waking i swirl aloft, lightly floating away

murphy thinking transubstantiation to be a trivial thing





wen siang 21

a journey alone

a north wind blows
through winter stripped woods
a whistling sound rises
personifies how cold it is

the traveler’s ears tingle
the sound penetrates within
the suffering is worse for loneliness
than it is for the bitter cold

how long it has been
since last he saw relatives and friends
this bleak homeland of strangers
brings with it added burdens

even foxes choose where to die
laying their heads on their own mounds
yet how can this traveler do that
his journey will last all his life

murphy, rootless, care worn, tired ofr it all





wen siang 22

already in my sixtieth year

already in my sixtieth year
i’ve seen much of the world
money, position, and power
those drifting clouds
billowing only to disappear
not worth their seeming esteem

my body is a pine tree
in the winter on a ledge
standing tall, alone
throughout long cold days

my mind is clear water
found in ancient wells
serene and unruffled
from its surface to its bed

my path is the ancient one
undeniably different
from the present day
when right and wrong
are not easily distinguishable

i sigh a lot
i sigh, then sigh again

murphy tut-tutting at the idiocy of today’s teens





wen siang 23

hiding away

leaving behind the windblown waves
of the rivers and the lakes
i achieve a deep concealment
wthin the mountains and valleys

no one comes or goes
through my rustic gate
no one but me to see
the evening, or the morning light

when the sun has just risen
and the mist and fog dissolve
when the birds fly off to forage
and the pine and bamboo are quiet

this life, too, is brief
a short stopover for such as i
and who among us sharing this world
has a coherent voice for that

perhaps we can learn from those
who have left this realm and its dust

murphy honoring his elders with his attention





wen siang 24

a nomad at heart

the joy of roaming freely is mine
endless, incapable of running out
whenever i am exhausted i sit on a bunch of moss
heedless of the sun’s lack of warmth

my lasting love is for the coolness beneath pines
a fitful breeze and then the deer descend
to lap the water from clear valley streams
monkeys arrive to forage for mountain fruit

at first what i wanted most
was freedom and the calm of quietude
then i realized i would never need
that people approve or even know of me

murphy disdaining power of position





wen siang 25

waking from a dream

a hundred years is nothing
merely an extra long dream
and meshed in its meander
such a lot of noise and confusion

only when we wake up do we realize
that the vividness was but a dream
and we would never get to know
the peculiar time occurring in dreams

my life has now been wakened
and the time of dreams is now forgotten
but i see no end of people still caught in their dreams
in the chaotic jumble, pitiful, sad, in need

murphy a zen clown early on in his life





wen siang 26

my mind

my mind has found the purity of serenity
it is truly a gift straight from heaven
to wrestle it back into the cage of the world
would stain its nature, violate its clarity

the people i meet everyday are not like me
if i think of their manners my mouth stays silent
the ways of these men are filled with traps
deceit from lies, grasping hands of greed

so now i stick mostly to mountains and forests
when i rest at night, there i find my peace
the herbs that grow are good for eating
the water that flows a drink that refreshes

plain clothes i wear grow soft in the wearing
no stiff brocade that chafes tender skin
i am pleased with this plan i now follow
it bodes well for my life, i seek no other way

murphy standing at ease in a pattering rain





wen siang 27

why one shouldn’t neglect the mind

if you feed the body
but starve the mind
your tree will be full of termites
an outward appearance of strength
but rotten and empty inside

there are those who know
and they fear this consequence
a body deprived of food, emaciated
can be fattened with good rich food
but a shattered mind
cannot be reconstructed

the people who lived long ago
knew that the root is paramount

murphy in his time a rigorous scholar





wen siang 28

ill at home alone

i am all alone
with no one to care for me
my house empty

i am worn out
like a stump with no live shoots
i rest to regain health

i open the door
look out on fallen leaves
they fill the mossy path

swift the flow of time
a frail body can hardly keep pace

i whistle and the sound rises
penetrates the tall forest
the long drawn out song invigorates me

murphy exercising his immune system to strengthen it





wen siang 29

this life of mine

this life of mine
when young and in full bloom
was spent on classical teachings

with all my undivided attention
my mind merged the many deep thoughts
and i made a tidy understanding

now i am in my old age, more at ease, relaxed
i indulge in a few pleasures
in the mountains and by the streams

now i am more spur of the moment
no longer fighting to become something else
gaining and losing have lost their meanings

murphy watching the wind catch the leaves





wen siang 30

how long can one live

how long can a life last
perhaps a hundred years
ten thousand odd days
and half the time asleep
and the rest not always understood

the trappings of societal functions
a series of prison garb, all of it
men of greed who dress to impress
clearly in a jail of their kind

rich people mingling together
constantly under stress
the humble of this world worry less

that is why the way of the ancient sage
was best when not constrained
by emperors and kings

murphy as usual living on borrowed time





wen siang 31

sun on my back

cold becomes a problem the older you get
my answer is to sit in the winter sun
roasting my back beside my door of reeds
the warmth soaks into flesh, through to the bones

if i were to rank the pleasures of the world
this should certainly become my number one
some may say they prefer the warmth of fur
but the effect of the winter sun is unique

since no one comes to visit my mountain home
i sit alone in the warmth, and snatch a flea

murphy preferring a steamy soaking bath





wen siang 32

resting in the forest

resting in the forest, long years go by
heart free, alone, my mind is clear
in my quietude i watch the animals
and through them research my intuition

trees are felled, sawn into lumber
tallow becomes candle, valued for its light
animals are penned, eaten, or ridden
birds are caged, to capture their song

people who boast of knowledge chain themselves
their certitude detracting from body and spirit
even when they point to achievement and gain
these are nothing more than bones for the pot

this is the way it has always been
and when you remember this, it shocks
success in men’s affairs brings trouble
only by escaping your own times can you live

sages of old were said to seek serenity in their evenings
and even i, though quite the dunce, find rest in the forest

murphy the old animist at core





wen siang 33

waiting for dawn

dream interrupted, sleep won’t come
i sit in my hut waiting for dawn
a bell tolls far away on another mountain
the first singing of birds comes from the trees

all my limbs sound, still limber
all my feelings deep, profound
just as i finish writing a letter
glare of morning gifts its golden form

true to my nature i wish for nothing outside self
quiet as i am no tangles of this world touch me
why stir the dust of the world working for others
i save myself from a hundred years of useless unreast

murphy walking to the river just before light





wen siang p34

a recluse in the mountains

since becoming a recluse in the mountains
i have found relaxation and attained peace
even when i sleep my dreams are calm
i would point to the turtle’s withdrawal

head, tail, front and rear limbs drawn within
altogether better than the rabbit’s three burrows
his essence is a singular reality
no fear of other things outside the body

to die of course will manifest the end
who can i ask to bury my old bones

murphy carrying the world on his back





wen siang p35

off the path

off the path midst crags and peaks
indulging self in elemental reality
at night i nibble chrysanthemum petals
mornings i drink dew off magnolia leaves

murphy desiring less and enjoying it more





wen siang 36

old and wasting away

growing old and being sick
aches and pains are never fun
lie on my bed all day long
flat on my back, nursing my ills

a little walk in the eastern garden
it only makes me more sad
the orchids, neglected and gone
wild grasses choking the ground

no strength left to weed, to nurture
back to lowly shack and my painful bed

murphy rheumatic but not yet doddering





wen siang p37

cinnamon ways

the cinnamon differs from the peach or the pear
only with the frosty dew does its flowers burst
the fragrant branches make a handsome gift
but no guests arrive, the way here long and hard

i pace my place all day and all night
when sadness is felt through separation
but when felt through tangible things
a thousand miles is a paltry length

murphy in the woods where he feels at home





wen siang p38

a hut hid away


living hid away is an empty freedom
it fits this man who values tranquility
outside my gate no dust of passersby
fallen leaves undisturbed on my path

when the sun disappears off to the west
the ridge of land to the east glows red
i light incense and settle to read
the mountain ghosts listen to buddha’s words

murphy finding beauty all alone


when i dream it is never about glory
i have left those blames and worries behind
i have lived alone in the remote forest
now it has passed these last thirty years

i am friends of the monkeys, friends of the birds
the brightness of sun has penetrated my heart
the solitary cloud never leaves any tracks
a ten foot room is quiet, incense lasting the night

murphy understanding his proper place in the world





wen siang p39

call of the birds of the night

the trees to the east reach into the clouds
every night the birds find there their roost
their calls weigh heavy on the soldier’s wife
she sees through her window the government men

they fight to the north, three years now and counting
he hasn’t returned, her bedroom is lonely
the bird cries increasing, she weeps all the more
her tears the rain, wetting her blouse and her skirt

murphy imagining the sorrows of all women





wen siang p40

racing horses

government men with fancy horses
wear clothes sewn together with threads of gold
they feast on common people’s flesh and blood
the men in the fields follow their plow

those that work often starve to death
yet those drunks and gluttons know no famine
nature treats us all as a simple child
how can that ever have come to be so unfair

when groups of people alter pure nature
don’t ever pretend to be surprised
if nature had a say in it at all
she would seek a better leveling

murphy on an even keel





wen siang 41

thinking of home

how many years too far from home
the hard labor of life goes on and on
i lived as a guest, never settled at ease
my hair turned gray before its time

river wind blows hard through the trees
declining moon seeps slow away
thinking of home doesn’t get me there
my dreams lead into a misty maze

murphy far from texas without a car





wen siang p42

thoughts from afar

the young men who went off to war
have already aged, their hair grown sparse
no one has ever given them medals for valor
those who fought in hundreds of battles

their women lie alone in bed at night
there is no news brought back to them

the soldiers know home only as vague memory
the border moon seen by all in their sorrow
a go between in heaven linking separate lives
the soldiers ears filled only by foreign flutes
coldness of the sound breaking their hearts





wen siang p43

sleepless night of travel

this night of autumn stretches far too long
the inn i find unwelcoming, moldy
the lamp is dim, rats peek from their holes
bugs infest the bed despite the cold

my journey seems never to come to its end
months now, years now, still restless, moving on
to give in to the ravages of old age is near
why did i ever leave my home, the warmth of my hearth

murphy explaining the spirit in the ritual fire

for a man without family all nights are long
waking in the morning i sit on my empty bed
the rain continues its bitterness, no news of home
fall clouds bring mud to isolate the village

the dying candle manages to flare up again
the cinnamon though is wet and has no smell
means of returning home still but a dream, not real
i find no solace, no peace in this attic room

murphy in a nightmare, lost and running late





wen siang p44

wandering far away

when i stop for the night in the forest
i seek only an abandoned ramshackle hut
when i travel by boat on the river
i avoid approaching the dangerous shore

i have been a constant traveler all my life
and a guest in many different lands
where men’s manners are so alien to mine
it’s hard to make any lasting friendship

when the grasses grow long spring sadness lingers
when frost makes a visit i cannot dream at dawn
when a sudden stirring begins in a foreign town
how can i ever calm my thoughts of returning home

murphy looking for the road back to his old way of being





wen siang p45

another night of rain

my body is a plant lying on brackish water
ever more vulnerable in weakened old age
i am far away from everything, no one visits
alone in an empty bed, awake to length of solitude

the purple clouds above aflash with thunderbolts
the outside rain glows green from small dim lamp
the moonless sky is filled with my displeasure
a long song sighs lament into the damp of night

murphy mind in turmoil, afraid to sleep





wen siang p46

the weary traveler

when evening comes i seek shelter in a village inn
i am weary of the rigors of this ceaseless traveling
the lands here are in turmoil, brigands abound
the fortress so far away you can’t hear the bells

this year has very few days left til its end
i think of my home village so very far away
woken by the cock crow i bundle my few belongings
begin my early morning march under a frosty moon

murphy never getting to where he wants





wen siang p47

freedom of spirit

the universe is filled with free spirited people
they have the luxury of having no concerns
they have learned to control their thoughts
and are able to enter into whole reality

they have no yearning for ephemeral glory
how could they concern themselves with disgrace
how could they have problems with being poor

although you may look up to green mountains
know this, they are objects outside the self

murphy an unreconstructed solipsist





wen siang p48

west wind

a west wind blows the falling leaves
this lone traveler finds time on his hands
the late rain has run off into the lowlands
autumn clouds beshroud the surrounding hills

a magpie flies off rustling the drying grasses
a raven returns encircled by the setting sun
who beside myself shares this uncanny enjoyment
the brushwood gate swings closed by itself

murphy paying attention as always





wen siang 49

the clarity of night vision

before the night is finished i rise to sit
watching fireflies in dark crystalline air
contemplative mind become as light as a reed
moon outlining trees on the western ridge

a bell awakens those in homes up above
they, also, still in the dark
some might even have found
the same fine clarity of night vision

murphy, alert, watching the bobber on his fishing line





wen siang 50

the way of this world

the way of this world is always hard
yet one can solve many problems in seclusion
the dao is achieved in a state of no desire
mountains do not mind a person’s steady gaze

cold water of the creek runs along the stony bank
the burning still goes on in the far off fields
i don’t mind the silence of solitude
this old fellow knows how to find his peace

murphy sloughing off more and more of his youthful follies





wen siang 51

human life must end

human life must end
it may last a hundred years
or 30 thousand days
but few have lived this fullness

go easy with the flow of life
there is joy there to be found
those that always work are to be pitied
riches and rank only add burdens to the soul

a stinking drunk will spill his drink on them
and in the end they will all alike die
but before they are finally dead
they could surely use a few laughs

murphy a sacred clown dancing





wen siang 52

old ideas


it’s hard to discuss anything
with the people of today
their hearts anxious with worry
constantly troubled by fears

the dao of antiquity valued
the middle way of water’s easement
but people of today value
mechanical cleverness

remembering the past
and living in today’s world
i value every meal
but cannot eat my fill

back and forth i see them
shedding distaste and doubts
at bottom all i seem to know
is how much i love sandpipers

murphy walking the beach of morning


the water flows steadily evermore east
the sun rides the heavens to disappear west
one in the sky, one skimming the earth
the cycles are poles of separation

they pull hard on the living
bringing dark hair to whiteness
the ignorant have no clear ideas
they are uneasy in spirit all their days long

if this body were to sink into a desire for gain
its basis would become even more crippled
one need only to repair to true nature
to strengthen the bones of the spirit

murphy taking his lead from recurrent ritual


the old apricot tree has grown quite tall
but it flowers only in the time of snow
it wraps itself in its wintry nature
will not join with the flowers of spring

a recluse who happened upon it one day
transplanted it here on this shore
beside the river sweeping his valley
sparse in form, it’s no eye catching beauty

its clear fragrance has no hint of lewdness
much like the recluse it is free and serene
no woodcutters or hunters come around
it alone warms the heart of a particular man

murphy recognizing a kindred spirit


the dao of the ancients, the true immortals
was peaceful isolation, uncontrived acceptance
achieving this strengthened the root of their spirits
thus they became able to make the longest of journeys

the august emperor of qin, the warrior lord of han
indulged their desires heedless of mortal fatigue
then once they had assumed command of all china
they looked for more peoples over which to rule

they were brutal, callous, their natures perverse
neither had the temperament to become an immortal
the mirror of heaven always shines clear
it cannot be distorted by the faces of liars

those who cannot look deep into their own hearts
often wish for riches, undeserved aggrandizement
yet in the end their hopes are never truly fulfilled
achieving nothing more than the laughter of posterity

murphy leaving his children armed for their future





wen siang 53

finding the peace within nature

birds find contentment in remote forests
fish find happiness in secluded ponds
humans find solace in solitary living
not being remote tends of always bring trouble

my hut is not far off, a shack in the grass and trees
equanimity comes of itself, a comfort hard to explain
if you value what solace there is, it comes from nature
this is so but there is no knowing why it is so

the joy of early morning, the bliss of early evening
a jubilance complete is the song i now sing
i sing a song of harmony all the senses
don’t talk, listen, and don’t make noise

murphy investing self in the space he occupies





wen siang 54

relaxing into the night

i sit in dark quietude
no neighbors close by
i sense the looming mass of mountains
soon enough, i know, will come the moon

the heat has dissipated from around the pond
a cool breeze rustles the stand of bamboo
a bat flies past the open window
a lonely firefly disappears into the grass

my mind melds with the welcoming night
that only a recluse can ever truly share

murphy accepting the tranquility that night brings





wen siang 55

moonlight on a hot night

i can’t stand the heat
sleep has become impossible
i descend the empty stairs
to walk in the cool light of the moon

the icy disk is full and flawless
so bright you can discern a single hair
late night air clears phlegm from the liver and lungs
it’s like drinking a fresh whiteness of snow

i can feel a change try to take me away
to seek out a flying mountain immortal
i can feel the approach of a soaring phoenix
i propel my inner self into the silent void

murphy feeling it at last, the bliss of letting go





wen siang 56

emotions of an autumn night

there are no people at night in the autumn mountains
though insects chirp in the roots of the grass
a bright moon shines above the tall forest
my empty window lets in the wind and dew

i’m over 40 now and have accomplished nothing
i’m at a crossroads between east and west
and have been working all this year long
both my parents dead for many years now

both their graves are long capped and finished
i and my brothers, impoverished, and cannot visit
turning my head i think of our old garden
clouds of sadness fill the skies over plains and marshes

of all the friends i have known
hundreds, or perhaps a thousand
not even ten still remain alive
my body withered, i wonder what can be done

what can i do with what little life i have left
all night long i don’t sleep, rising, pacing, sitting
a thousand thoughts crowd through my troubled mind
i try to emulate past masters who can move past their emotions

how can i ever succeed to that equanimity
only by imagining a world with no new birth
then and only then can i remove these tears
then and only then will my sleeves not be wet

murphy in his dotage devoid of ambition at last





wen siang 57

hungry for a safe haven

keeping to myself i’ve always been poor
traveling here and there, far and wide
the path of my journey, endless
now i’m getting old, losing my strength

i am a vagabond, abandoned by normal men
my face chapped, changed by wind and frost
when i return to the traveler’s inn here
i lean on my staff, heave a heavy sigh

one cannot cook words in order to eat
ten thousand scrolls, a useless collection
better to be an old farmer who grows food
the individual ant turning the mill of society

time gallops by like a frisky young horse
tossing clods at the crack in my door
what have i done with all of my life
my hair turning white for no good reason

heaven and earth, vast, unknowable
how can i fit myself for an immortal’s wings
wishing to live alone in a nest on a single branch
hoping to avoid the hunters and their bullets shot

murphy ducking low to keep his head out of trouble





wen siang 58

the way of the world

the way of the world is never ceasing wind and waves
yet the life of the everyday has its final end
i drift east, then west, in bitterness and pain
my hair thinned out, not black as it was before

though a bird longs for a cozy, soft, safe haven
and an old horse longs for the warmth of its stable
living things are not always the same in their needs
but for each there is an appropriate harmony

riches and high position are but happenstance
why should i gnash my teeth at their thought

murphy calm and reflective about the pains of old age





wen siang 59

sitting alone at the edge of clouds

i sit quietly on a boulder
at the very edge of clouds
far, far in the distance
a mindless rain falls

the calm surface of the river below
disturbed by arriving gulls
the mountain air cold
yellowing the crowd of leaves

far off a noon bell rings clear
sun settles slowly to its rest
i find i cannot leave
here does a hermit live

where clustered peaks beguile
casting shadows of the night

murphy knowing, just knowing, when everything is right





wen siang 60

a lifetime

a human life of less than a hundred years
is nothing but a way station on a long journey
the vigor of youth cannot be kept for long
the gradual decline of age takes it all away

so even if you accomplish great works
who can escape the strictures of the body
with a drawn out song i stubbornly return
to boil white stones in the heart of the mountains

murphy keeping true to form in his habits





wen siang 61

along the road

the road i walk is long and hard
wheat reddened by a setting sun
i raise my head to stare into the distance
to mountains and their border pass

i wonder again where my head will lie
as autumn winds rustle oaken leaves
i cannot restrain my pensive thoughts
being unable to be with those dear to me

dusk descends and thoughts become more dark
i once took pride in my handsome youth
then suddenly changed into an ugly old man
how long can a life last if not constantly on guard

the ones i knew and loved grow less day by day
those who are gone are everyday more
glory cannot sustain a sense of prosperity
the song of grassy dew the fleeting nature of life

murphy in his dreams always unable to get back home





wen siang 62

extravagance is dangerous

in high antiquity when sages were kings
all value was implicit in simplicity
but those times have long ago passed us by
and immoderacy is now become normal

once the ruler began to lose his moral sway
the decline persisted down to visit us this day
from qin to han, through zhen and sui
fewer and fewer knew or practiced simplicity

resources are depleted, the people ravaged
the great multitudes live a brutal, short life
so now we have the truth, indulgence is wrong
the results detested by both nature and man

gold and pride do not proper clothing make
brocade and embroidery cannot feed us
true value is in farming and basic textiles
while fancy luxuries are parasites on the people

murphy sipping tea in his simple kitchen





wen siang 63

awake on a quiet evening

the night is quiet, yet i cannot sleep
the autumn air has an especial clarity
a rime of dew coats the plants in the courtyard
a leave falls, bringing with it its twig

a west wind gusts strong and brings its noise
i begin to notice small differences in sound
the crickets’ high pitch brings a sadness
as they chirp beneath the floor

i go out into the yard to enjoy the view
the indigo sky is sewn with colored stars
constellations stretch across the heavens
the pole star now sits at a shallow angle

a swan in flight appears from the north
its flight a long one and it labors with fatigue
it seems disconsolate as if having lost its mate
how lonely it seems as it flies overhead

moved by the moment i remember a friend far away
i pace back and forth, restless, uneasy in my mind
my heartbreak is deep, it cannot be told
a silent, useless anguish takers over my being

murphy an old man with never a restful night





wen siang 64

abandoned roads

the grass grows wild, hanging over the garden fence
i wonder who is buried, how important a person
cattle and sheep graze on the high mound
fox and rabbit have made their burrows here

for this traveler the sight is heartbreaking
where are the children and the children’s children
the autumn wind brings sadness with its cold breath
causing a lonely stirring in the white willow trees

murphy fully invested in his sense of family





wen siang 65

returning at night


the weather is unusually clear and mild
up in these mountains i’ve been hiking
following the streams, picking aromatic herbs
up into the clouds to get fragrant late tea

my inner feelings have relaxed day by day
the clamor and dust of life washed right away
i have been riding the moon, but now i return
my hut awaits these tired dirty feet

murphy losing himself in the wilderness


all my life i have eaten a bare sustenance
a beggar’s bowl in the midst of other men
but i have returned to my hut this night
the moon has risen, the mountain grown quiet

everywhere around i hear the trickle of springs
every step i walk is in the shadow of pines
when i wash my feet i meditate in peace
up within the clouds on a cold stone bench

murphy finally in his own quietude





wen siang 66

joy of a morning

this joyful morning i rise to open my cottage door
a cool breeze is welcomed and comes right in
the early red sun lights their leafy trees
the shadows it casts are crystalline edged

i am calm, serene, everything merges in my heart
harmonious world whether comes gain or loss
that is not my concern, now, at this moment
this type of morning, this way, til the end of my days

murphy a morning person as usual, up just before dawn





wen siang 67

sun’s first light

a clarity of air at sun’s first light
the view before me stretches farther than far
as the sun peeks above the eastern sea
it’s these high peaks that catch the first glow

feeling the harmony of all things i start to sing
and though my voice has not the sweetest tone
there is no need to hit just the right notes
for this in itself is the mountain’s own tune

murphy favoring river bottom land, not the highest ridge





wen siang 68

the sun on the morning forest

the dry leaves now are especially pitiful
a cold wind blowing hard to tear them away
the sky has brought a chilling frost of rime
i’m afraid they’re not long for this world

they fall to their fate in the grass on the ground
noticing how late it has become i’m overtaken with sighs
morning sun brings the power of nature’s process
transmutes the frost into oozing, dripping tears

murphy finding metaphor wherever he goes





wen siang 69

autumn scene

autumn already more than half over
each day the wind grips with colder breath
though the ducks come back to visit for a while
no trace left of all the birds of summer

this traveler finds himself lonely
sensitive in feeling and thinking of home
even if possible to return, even in dreams
the road back is hard and can’t be skipped over

murphy always remorseful and never fulfilled





wen siang 70

thoughts at year’s end

endless choice branches at every step
while months and years pass you by
the north wind wields its frigid force
on this traveler who has no quilt

this life is but pathetic indeed
mostly spent in empty sorrow
those who care all passed away
and nowhere to hide in this moonlight

separate, alone, no family or friends
grief of apartness welling up all days, this night

murphy acutely aware of knowing nothing but self





wen siang 71

feeling the season

the riches of earth, both mulberry and grain
silk for clothes, and cereal for food
in olden days one ninth went for tax
serving both public and private lives

but now is different with these ceaseless wars
ever renewing, going on and on and on
conscriptions called regardless of season
government should take care not to harm its people

but the ruler’s demands must perforce be met
and now those who weave are always cold
and now those who plow are always hungry
no chickens or dogs remain in the empty villages

many are the ruined houses, abandoned by refugees
a graybeard i met said it best for me
old men sing aloud their songs of sadness
let those yet able to hear begin to think

murphy worried about his children’s children





wen siang 72

feelings on a journey

i suffer the lack of resources
life in the mountains is harsh
i’ve traveled now for over a thousand miles
my brothers left behind, my parents gone grey

no letters reach here from my old garden
threads of sadness knot my mind both day and night
but all the dry grasses which fill the yard
can suddenly change to sprout new green

murphy bewitched by what he left behind





wen siang 73

composed from a dream

why grieve over being abandoned
poverty and isolation are not illnesses
walking over mountains and by streams
quite meets the needs of an eremite

no carts pass the door of my hut
green moss covers the long pathway there
and when i suddenly hear a fisherman’s song
i feel blessed with the happiness of rivers and lakes

murphy an old man snatching sleep and always dreaming





wen siang 74

my body

men from east, west, north and south
all far away from the deepest of silence here
i live alone midst the crags and ravines
as i age and decline in my later years

here where my sideburns congeal with frost
my sleeves have become straggles of string
i ask why one feels the need to eat meat
one can easily fill up on plants in the wild

my only worry is the body i still inhabit
only when the body dies is there no trouble at all
the world of changing fashion is not my way to go
every step i take ultimately leads back to the hills

no dust or dirt in the realm which meets my eyes
no argument right or wrong clangs into my ears
i fill my gut with the plenteous seeds and fruit
i cover my body with the clothing of clouds and mist

why should i be concerned with poverty
here where all my paltry needs are fulfilled

murphy replete with little or nothing





wen siang 75

song of the silkworm women

in wu the end of spring means silkworms
they are hungry after their long sleep
but the houses of the poor have no money
no way to provided mulberry leaves for the worms

nothing can be done for the starving grubs
they are unable to make any thread
wives and mothers-in-law talk, baskets in hand
who knows the pain harbored in their hearts

when mother-in-law was twenty she married
but could not afford even a plain wedding dress
now the officials raise taxes, roaring like lions
there is no one to turn to for help in her need

there is no easy path when you cannot pay taxes
households are wrecked, neighbors all bankrupt
all have drifted away leaving only broken fences
the abandoned wells sad testimony to a passer-by

murphy too old to start any new projects





wen siang 76

an old peasant’s story

an ailing man lay huddled in a curl of the mountain
elder shen of the east village noticed his dress of rags
the man spoke of hunger, scant food to eat all this year
then he began to berate the cruelty of government rules
everything he said rang with the pure bell of truth
all his reasoning valid down into its roots
generations of farmers, he said, have worked their fields
knowing this way and nothing else, unable to change

they tried to maintain their most treasured of customs
they tried to raise silkworms without getting any cocoons
they have worn themselves out with the plow and hoe
their fields now empty of grain, a thousand barren plots
truly hard to mend the hundred holes in their clothes
yet next month the men will come to collect taxes
the poor have no cash to meet their obligations
they have already sold the goose and gander they raised

they are truly like sparrows run afoul of a hunter’s net
women and children all crying, no one paying any mind
their hearts tangled threads with many a loose strand
the widow to the west without a single branch left
all the families are nothing more than rotting trees
they have no purpose in life left for them to hold onto
mothers and children drawn to the river to drown
everything the old man said came from a hurting gut

when he stopped talking, mucous and tears flowed free
this is the face of hardship the life of the people can be

murphy lucky to be warm and dry, with ample food





wen siang 77

true pleasure


i know everyone feels pleasure
but only my pleasure is real to me
once i manage quietude
all my thoughts disappear

my house has not a mote of dust
snow has cleaned the bones of the apricot tree
mist has fed the bamboo’s spirit
nor rope nor bridle can hold body so freed


i reach another year’s end
in my stark mountain abode
rivers and clouds leave nothing behind
pines and cedars share the same nature

i rise from a nap to find taro roots done
as the incense burns away i finish a scripture
the awareness of truly real pleasure
comes from the womb of stillness and silence

murphy gazing out the window and seeing nothing





wen siang 78

the out of the way place

in this out of the way place
there is no clamor, nothing to bother me
white clouds always scud over the gate
the river’s song rises from the canyons

this place rises beyond the bounds of the universe
i wash my face in water steeped in sweet flag
i cleanse my body with the froth of the matrimony vine
the delight of such freedom is difficult to express

murphy unaware of all but where he is





wen siang 79

staying in the country

if one finds shelter in a country place
one’s days are filled with leisure
i lean on my gnarled briar cane
after wandering where my legs would go

a line of water ducks far off on the wild plain
i hear the cluck of chickens from a hidden village
one can find mystery wherever one looks
people open in mind aren’t driven by feelings

by the time i get back the new moon is up
it shines on me when i go into my hut

murphy idling away his day in the late spring sunshine





wen siang 80

country men

when farmers have a good year
villages are filled with laughter
barley and wheat yellow the fields
mulberry and hemp provide green shade

catfish and carp fill the nets
chickens and pigs fill the pens
at ancient shrines under tall trees
drums and flutes welcome the spirits

murphy fat and sassy after a filling dinner





wen siang 81

night time on a journey

traveler’s inn profoundly still and quiet
moon shining through every window and door
clear sky filled with a panoply of colorful stars
cool dew gathering on the bush before the lodge

turbulent thoughts preclude a restful sleep
i get up and listen to the drip of the clock
i listen, pace, then stop, then listen again
i listen through the third, the fourth, the fifth watch

nurphy an old man who never sleeps without dreaming





wen siang 82

waking from a dream

the moon intensely white, a brisk cold wind
tiny insects crying sadly in this weather tonight
how could a wandering man not think of home
thoughts long continued turned into a dream

i’ve gone far away, far to the west of huang tang
this dream was tiring indeed, again and again
crossing high mountains and broad valleys
always seeing my close friends laughing and talking

they always calling me back, calling me back
waking, still on a journey, homeland left far, far behind
my people become strangers crowding my sleep
life but a dream and no telling how long it will last

murphy unable to escape from anxiety, even in sleep





wen siang 83

a stroll brings a special joy

when i sit sometimes my thoughts cramp up
so after a while i make sure to take a stroll
i hike my pants to wade through a stream
i follow the clouds and climb a high hill

it’s midsummer, the trees deep luscious green
different birds sing ceaselessly, almost a concert
now my thoughts are more like what i wish to feel
as i walk i slough more and more of my hundred worries

loosening my belt i sit again on a boulder
washing my feet i gaze at the endless stream
my mind finally at ease holding nothing at all
body at rest i feel relaxed and fully free

here i find meaning as i seek to nurture this life
that special place to which one seeks to ever return

murphy finding his usual stool at the local pub

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