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Christopher Kelen

Christopher Kelen



scroll of green mountains



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a collection of poems in the manner of the Tang poet, Meng Jiao




for rocks and flowing water




1
the north wind bites
at crags
which cannot be scenic
but for the water
and the woods below

river goes where feet won't
still I'm drawn on
into this night

2
flows into the mountain
to distances on

a voice upon stones
bright
brings views of elsewhere

ten thousand voices
sort to season

sun, moon in glimpses
rosy peaks
from clouds are grown

and gone
I must move higher

3
my stick
brings me everywhere

of the trail it was made
foolish legs won't carry me home now

look at me —lichen
grown on a river bend

so the caged bird is muted
the royal horse brought to heel

it's not the right time
and never the right time

the superior man's
biggest sneer
for himself

silence
a duty
to mountains and mists

4 snow peaks in the tarn
a sprinkling of stars

the river runs too fast to rhyme

dark waterweeds
moss floating

to tame
the in and out
heart mind
begin with observation

5
waves come through the hollow of valley
they deafen
water so fast it peels the fish scales

the mountain is sharp
its ridge drills the sky

steep earth hewn stairs
and dangerous planks

these lean against
the blue, the green

immortals fly
on fine boned wings

from great heights
one exaggerates

mere duckweed
my view here
the forest below

6 notes in clear water
tunes of cold stars

to wash old things
brings back the colour

I drink from snow melted
not from the stream
which passes men's haunts

smooth marble has a sharp edge
jade is dense, is matted, like grass

river and valley
mortar and pestle

the argument of right and wrong
and always wrung one way

7
go deep into the valley
go high for the best views

past paths, past every human trace
escape the vulgar world

forget mortality, daily things

foolish beasts will not fear people
thus they're tricked with nets

equality of poor and rich
comes only at this height

see scholars clean like clouds
and thin, so thin, dissolving

8
ten thousand zithers
the discord of town
where here the one stream sings

old men keep their strength
but when the wind blows
lean in to the cliff

to learn among mountains
the peaceful mind
never need be calmed

9
I crossed the south river in the great wind
today I climb for the view

most things in the mountains seem gaunt
nights ice and the days cast in shadowless snow

gaze into the depth of jade iced over
still the spring sings

no mending old worries
dragons hide their scales to float

fish leap for new poems
forget the old

the moon is yet to hang on sparse summits
not even the sun knows where it will fall

10
shall we visit the virtuous in first light?
this mountain's thick with hermits

the wind like a brush
over inkstone and valley

how angrily
a river flows
to set down

the lure of all things
in spite of their wildness

just here
where I've sought
to lose my way



mage


finding a pass among the green mountains


the mountain is strong
but the horse is weak

the horse is walking
the mountain towers

I must raise the bridle
nine times in ten steps

east, west? I'm going in circles

water in the stream
now rain
the cliff is dark with mist

clothes billow and sway in the storm
kudzu flowers wither, fall

light gone, at last alone
day's journey done


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the Daoist's retreat


the mountain is mysterious
plants on it are always green

stones of five colours make it up
the lakes are strange as well

wine for the immortals won't make you drunk
life's lengthened when wishing gives way

starry night — hear the devout
to sleep through their song
would be disrespect

I heap pine wood against the cold
I warm my hands to write



their meaning between lines


a wanderer by borders
months and years
the tracks on my face

time and again
I went up the mountain

no use to pick the fragrant flowers
that once in ten years we might meet

only the winter moon reflecting
only the pine to straighten the heart

though ice on the surface shines
bright as glass
the water still runs far below



parable


who says green mountains are tortuous
and will not bend the straight pines there?

who says that muddy water
cannot dull the bright moon floating?

I have an honest heart and clear
but the folk here distrust the hardship of chastity

none of that wavers my resolve
integrity stands taller than pines
the green of the mountain won't bend



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a mountain path


horseflies gather
to the bloody beast

it can't walk

almost dark
no way back

on the track ahead
the grumbling of tigers

not from cold
the lone traveller shakes



for a monk


in the mountains
early or late
rosy clouds

the garment of the valley plain
a fire is built of cypress

learning the Buddha's way is hard
the monk sews the climbing fig
in order to make his robe



chant of an old man in the mountains


I didn't till the ground below the mountain
I went to the top,
tied an axe to my belt
to chop pines on the way
brought a ladle for water
from my home spring

how would I know the power of words?
there's no need of memorising sun or moon
my body is of crooked wood
unsuitable for carving

how else would life be long?



drink more!


perhaps you've not noticed
no shadows are fixed in daylight
the river's ripples won't come still

you can't live for a hundred years
but if you could — so what?

good wine before us
music out front

one more!
don't say your face is red

have you noticed
there are more and more pine trees every year
more graves every day

keep watching the south mountains
let me know if you see any change down there


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a sudden gust stirs up the road


1
climbing the mountain
I thought of something

cold rain tormenting all the grasses
a sudden gust stirs up the road

friends scattered, family
how can they be helped, protected?

five senses, five emotions shattered
how does one get to be old?

2
sky vast and wild

da hua
the changing
the source of creations

everything returning to nature

the sun's six dragons
rushing to the wasteland west

day by day, more jackals and wolves
the frost comes on the grass and the woods

in a hungry year
birds disappear
not a grain is wasted

3
sleepless
pacing
waking or not
the fidget of the bitter mind

went up to the roof
saw the old stars
still stand

the seasons stayed as they were
though spring was everything's desire
it too was with eternity

so loyal the starving
so straight the dead
I thanked the ancients
for their kind attention

4
the moon is a beautiful woman

ten thousand miles away
she is cool

all the way here on this hillside
yin air
the grass withers

the empire a city a palace

a blackbird in the jade hall
up and left
like that

the man of integrity. . .
no joy for him here
what's he to do?
ah but too many names to remember

wealth and fame in the morning
always indigestion later
bad dreams

exploits of the ancients
have always confused me

the beautiful moon shines cool
shines clear

5
I, among all the appointed officials,
went to a far field
came back in the sunset

Xi He, the sun god, stopped his wheels then
four seas stood in the afterglow

so desolate the sudden wind
the owl cried high
other birds leaned in
all things scattered around

a man in the east
happy alone
why so silent,
so burdened with everything,
knowledge, the way?

hungry even at year's end, the poet
closes over the makeshift wood
which you will kindly call his door

6
fire clouds
show up the white of the moon
full tonight

wise men and fools alike in awe
at daylight bettered

there are many moons
every moon has its parts,
horns and quarters, new, full,
waxes wanes

every season returns
so every star shines
not to be missed

7
wind shook the empty mountain
raised my head to the stars
all foretelling

met in the evening at the river bridge
not much to say in sorrow so deep

a poem had been left to tell
it was because of the corrupt government
he'd left the country

a long time parted from the ones I love
head full of home thoughts

as soul from body
life from its engendering soil

heart has its own way home

8
birds from the east, from the west
fly
cry
in sorrow

wish I could get past clouds
to the blue
drink in
the uncluttered infinite



address to a certain notable
visiting Zhong Nan Mountain



sir, you'll notice
this mountain's stuck mid-way
between earth and sky

sun and the moon
both rise from its rock

day's afterglow when night has fallen
dawn's slow in the deepest ravines

people who visit here — sturdy and honest
the path is uneven but their hearts are not

wind moves the pines
leaves sweep the ten thousand hollows

I know it's hard work and fame
chased you here

we'd appreciate it
if your pager was off



a visit to Long Chi Temple in Zhong Nan Mountain


birds cannot fly
to this house just for monks

a dragon makes the water green

when the rain lets up
how fresh the mountain

I walked above the white sun
clear river far below

the ground was cold
the pines far down
paths uneven to walk

when evening came
the copper rang
heaven knew
the mountain
looked up



aubade


lamp gutters
but our talk goes on

stars still
but the day unveils willows
shows orchids in dew

little mountain
laughs at the towering peaks

a new song?
this one for dawn

my companion already has words
now that I can see the strings
I cannot find the chords



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Christopher Kelen Christopher Kelen is a well known Australian poet whose works have been widely published and broadcast since the mid seventies. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature describes Kelens work as “typically innovative and intellectually sharp.” Kelen holds degrees in literature and linguistics from the University of Sydney and a doctorate on the teaching of the writing process, from UWS Nepean. Kelens first volume of poetry, The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees, won an Anne Elder Award in 1992. In 1988 Kelen won an ABA/ABC bicentennial award with his poem “Views from Pinchgut.” In 1996 he was Writer-in-Residence for the Australia Council at the B. R. Whiting Library in Rome. In 1999 he won the Blundstone National Essay Contest, conducted by Island journal. He also won second prize in the Gwen Harwood Poetry Award that year. In 2000 Kelen's poetry/art collaboration (with Carol Archer) Tai Mo Shan/Big Hat Mountain was exhibited at the Montblanc Gallery in Hong Kong's Fringe Club. And in 2001 another collaboration (essay and watercolor) titled Shui Yi Meng/Sleep to Dream was shown at the Montblanc Gallery. Both exhibitions have been published as full color catalogues. Kelen's fourth book of poems, Republics, dealing with the ethics of identity in millennial Australia, was published by Five Islands Press in Australia in 2000. A fifth volume, New Territories, a pilgrimage through Hong Kong structured after Dante's Divine Comedy, was published with the aid of the Hong Kong Arts Development Board in 2003. In 2004 Kelen's chapbook Wyoming Suite: North American Sojourn was released by VAC Publishing in Chicago. In 2005, Kelen's long poem Macao was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and a re-edited version of Tai Mo Shan appeared in Southerly. Kelen's most recent volume of poems is Eight Days in Lhasa (VAC, 2006). A new volume of Macao poems Dredging the Delta is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press in the U.K. Apart from poetry Kelen publishes in a range of theoretical areas including writing pedagogy, ethics, rhetoric, cultural and literary studies and various intersections of these. Kelen is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Macau, where he has taught Literature and Creative Writing since 2000. He is the principal investigator in the University of Macau's Poems and Stories of Macao Research Project and the editor of the on—line journal Writing Macao: creative text and teaching.