To Li Po in Blossom Time

Five in the morning, the first light milky
this far north. And that first glint of gold—
would you say coins scattered on palace grounds?

No, it is just a good year for dandelions.
Flamboyant in saffron, they turn their heads,
shaggy and radiant, away from the world

toward the lord of the lowliest weed,
who rises over the gray roofs of England.
From the outpost of a television aerial

falls the cry of a blackbird, more beautiful
than required, low notes that say it was sung
by a bird of the forest once; it was a stream

braiding its way through a million leaves—
there were forests in those days, you say?
And a wine-tower south of T’ien-ching Bridge.

songs and laughter could be bought,
and dancing girls, and one stayed drunk
month after month, scorning emperors,

forgetting how soon they would all be gone.
And there were those who stayed north of the Lo River,
sighing over the last dram of a dream.

And the governor, whose long sleeves would not stay still
when flutes called, rose and danced in his sodden way.
By evening, that hour when rouged faces, flushed with drink,

look best, we had scattered over the hills like rain.
Five in the morning, a weedy gold scattered
on the ground. The gutters of England

are lined with the silk of cherry petals.