to the small poem and the quiet voice within

hayden carruth | a summer with tu fu

A Summer with Tu Fu

by Hayden Carruth


What does it mean, master,
that across fifteen centuries
I make my profoundest and so fatally

inadequate obeisance to your
monarchic presence in the kingdom
of poetry? What does it mean

that two old guys speak to one another
from the sadnesses of exile,
confronting their final

futility after years of futile awkwardness
in the world of doing? We look,
you and I, at the heron in the sunset.

You have the advantage of a natural world
known in security, the mountain snow,
the village where the hens scratch

in familiar unchanging dust. And I
in the disappearing of my world
have the advantage of a beautiful

young woman, who is a poet too, to share
the moments of peace. We are not the
same, you and I, nor would I dare

presume, yet with you, as nothingness
descends and I fade away, I feel
a kinship I have not known before.

See how the heron folds her neck
in flight. See how mysteriously she perches
on the dead willow in her heraldic silence.

After all perhaps we are the same. Who can
the master be, who the apprentice? We embrace,
two smiling old men standing on the end of a pier.


  1. Jackie

    Oooh, more Tu Fu – Somehow everything is more personal these days, especially from Tu Fu (Du Fu). This is lovely. I’m not very familiar with Carruth–will remedy that.

  2. Barbara Vroman

    Pathos. Sweet, tender, accepting. A sadness like
    a sunset fading.

  3. GE Wamser

    Beautiful. Still the best thing on the web.

  4. Don

    Thanks, Norb. Somehow, a perfect autumn poem.

  5. Ed Markowski

    At The Eden Roc Motel 6 / 27/ 86 Los Angeles CA






  6. Phil Hansotia

    Why does an oriental poet/philosopher strike such a wistful streak here. Perhaps its the search for a lost traquillity we wish we had. The time to dwell on a heron’s curling neck!

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