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Selected Translations of Classical Korean Shijo


I tie my boat along the Jinhwe & find a riverfront tavern.
The hostess doesn’t know the nation’s about to shatter into ruins.
She sings “The Pleasure Garden Song” as mist hangs on the river,

            Moon on the sand.

                                                            ––Ko Kyong-myong (1533-1592)



“O Monk!” I call. “How was the scenery across the Eastern Pass?”

“There’s nothing but wild red roses in leagues of shining sand, &

Above a distant bay pairs of white gulls wing in the threading rain.”


                                                            ––Shin Wee (1769-1847)



Deciding to sell my poverty, I arrive at the aristocrat’s gate.

But who will cut a deal without turning a profit?

Though asked, I refused to hand over this river & mountain,

            this moon & the wind.

                                                            ––Jo Chan-han (1572-1631)



How many worlds have come into being & who were their heroes?

Everything that’s risen & fallen for 10,000 years feels like a momentary dream.

How can you tell such an old man not to party?

                                                            ––Jo Chan-han (1572-1631)




a black branch dripping rain;

The silent hour

everything else revolves around, rushes past


So much




               & messes

of the human you were/are/will be


         & still

         the white heron

         encroached upon

                           by industry


            among bulrushes


            in its pristine sphere


                                             ––Chungju (1959- )



Homage To Guru Rinpoche


“Space beyond the complexity of things & names”

A la Guru Rinpoche, heads stacked on trident.

You’re defeated before you walk in the door

Because who exists to fight with?

Neighborhood dogs erupt in the darkness.

Here we see a monk reciting a text

& here Kali with your head on a stick.

What state of intention leaves

Its footprints burned in living rock?

“Don’t invest reality with identity.”

Sealed in a cave,

He turns the world inside out,

Point of a three-bladed dagger

Puncturing the domiciles of ghosts,

While rainbow-hued flowers fall through stone.


Kathmandu, Nepal




I Dream A Conversation With The Vajra Regent:


Boundaries are self-arising, I tell him.  I see this wall as solid––I knock on it with my fist––but
supposedly there are realized yogis who meditate on emptiness & can walk right through it.
Mandala boundaries,
he tells me, are limited based on your assumption of limitation.