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A Distant Temple - for Nate

It was a fine day, not horrible at all and not one bit what I expected. The cloudless light seemed conveyed by the wind somewhere past the high branches and quite beyond the reach of our bicycles. We roasted ourselves on the mossy, stone wall of the old lock and would roll into the river when we were too hot; the water wasn't icy, but it was cool on the skin and you could feel the current tug at you like a child at an arcade. No, the pull was steadier than that. The colors were granite and emerald, but always moving. My trunks were pulled back as I'd face upstream and would puff up if I went to the bottom. The stones of the riverbed were slick underfoot; I stubbed my toe in a pretty awful way. Bob skinned his knee falling in the riffled shallows, looking for hellgrammites or salamanders or crayfish.

The Chinese have traditional themes in their landscapes, much as we have Norman Rockwell and lonesome train stations and charming New England lighthouses and high sierra cattle calls. I am reading about this before I go to sleep. One such theme is "The Evening Bell from a Distant Temple," which includes any evening scene you may see in Chinese art. There is a poem that Wallace Stevens clued me in on, by Wang-an-shih, that goes like this (it is a good description of what I mean):

It is midnight; all is silent in the house;
the water-clock has stopped. But I am
unable to sleep because of the beauty of the
trembling shapes of the spring flowers, thrown
by the moon upon the blind.

See, there is no explicit temple bell, but you can hear it all the same; there is nothing more beautiful that I can think of offhand. I remember the train tracks in Greensboro that ran near where I used to live, not so close to be annoying; but you could hear those trains go by from your front porch as you drank your Big Boy bottle of beer or read your Norton Anthology. Where I live now, I can hear "Taps" every night at ten and eleven, carrying across town from Arlington Cemetary. It's a strange thing to hear at night. Occasionally, when I am awake early and my window is up, I can hear "Reveille" as well.

I am tired from all the sun I got today and all the swimming. My sheets feel scratchy on my skin and my pillow is too hot. Things are very quiet; "the water-clock has stopped." I can't get to sleep myself. Perhaps, I will look up just what a water-clock is. Or maybe I will wake you up and make you go outside with me and just listen to treetops and the darkness moving above them.

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post #386
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April - National Poetry Month 2008

Favorite Things
· Autumn's first apples
· What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves boxset
· Collected Works of Jack London
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