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Gary Snyder - Selected Poems

8. 9. 2008

A Walk

Sunday is the only day we don’t work:

Mules farting around the meadow,

Murphy fishing,

The tent flaps in the warm

Early sun: I’ve eaten breakfast and I’ll

take a walk

To Benson Lake.  Packed a lunch,

Goodbye.  Hopping on creekbed boulders

Up the rock throat three miles

Piute Creek -

In steep gorge glacier-slick rattlesnake country

Jump, land by a pool, trout skitter,

the clear sky.  Deer tracks.

Bad places by falls, boulders big as houses,

Lunch tied to belt,

I stemmed up a crack and almost fell

But rolled out safe on a ledge

an ambled on.

Quail chicks freeze underfoot, color of stone

Then run cheep!  away, hen quail fussing.

Craggy west end of Benson Lake - after edging

Past dark creek pools one a long white slope -

Lookt down in the ice-black lake

lined with cliff

From far above: deep shimmering trout.

A lone duck in a gunsightpass

steep side hill

Through slide-aspen and talus, to the east end,

Down to grass, wading a wide smooth stream

Into camp.  At last.

By the rusty three-year-

Ago left-behind cookstove

Of the old trail crew,

Stoppt and swam and ate my lunch.



After Work

The shack and a few trees

float in the blowing fog

I pull out your blouse,

warm my cold hands

on your breasts.

you laugh and shudder

peeling garlic by the

hot iron stove.

bring in the axe, the rake,

the wood

we'll lean on the wall

against each other

stew simmering on the fire

as it grows dark

drinking wine.


As for poets


As for poets

The Earth Poets

who write small poems,

need help from no man.

The Air Poets

play out the swiftest gales

and sometimes loll in the eddies.

Poem after poem,

curling back on the same thrust.

At fifty below

fuel oil won't flow

and propane stays in the tank.

Fire Poets

burn at absolute zero

fossil love pumped backup

The first

Water Poet

stayed down six years.

He was covered with seaweed.

The life in his poem

left millions of tiny

different tracks

criss-crossing through the mud.

With the Sun and Moon

in his belly,

The Space Poet


No end to the sky-

but his poems,

like wild geese,

fly off the edge.

A Mind Poet

stays in the house.

The house is empty

and it has no walls.

The poem

is seen from all sides,


at once.



Axe Handles

One afternoon the last week in April

showing Kai how to throw a hatchet

one-half turn and it sticks in a stump.

He recalls the hatchet-head

without a handle, in the shop

and go gets it, and wants it for his own

a broken off axe handle behind the door

is long enough for a hatchet,

we cut it to length and take it

with the hatchet head

and working hatchet, to the wood block.

There I begin to shape the old handle

with the hatchet, and the phrase

first learned from Ezra Pound

Rings in my ears!

"When making an axe handle

the pattern is not far off."

And I say this to Kai

"Look: We'll shape the handle

by checking the handle

of the axe we cut with--"

And he sees. And I hear it again:

It's in Lu Ji's Wên Fu, fourth century

A.D. "Essay on Literature" -- in the

Preface: "In making the handle

of an axe

by cutting wood with an axe

the model is indeed near at hand."

My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen

translated that and taught it years ago

and I see Pound was an axe

Chen was an axe, I am an axe

and my son a handle, soon

to be shaping again, model

and tool, craft of culture,

how we go on.



For All   

Ah to be alive

on a mid-September morn

fording a stream

barefoot, pants rolled up,

holding boots, pack on,

sunshine, ice in the shallows,

northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters

stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes

cold nose dripping

singing inside

creek music, heart music,

smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil

of Turtle Island,

and to the beings who thereon dwell

one ecosystem

in diversity

under the sun

with joyful interpenetration for all.




Hay For The Horses   

He had driven half the night

from far down San Joaquin

through Mariposa, up the

dangerous mountain roads,

and pulled in at eight a.m.

with his big truckload of hay

behind the barn.

With winch and ropes and hooks

we stacked the bales up clean

to splintery redwood rafters

high in the dark, flecks of alfalfa

whirling through shingle-cracks of light,

itch of haydust in the

sweaty shirt and shoes.

At lunchtime under Black oak

out in the hot corral,

--the old mare nosing lunchpails,

grasshoppers crackling in the weeds --

"I'm sixty-eight" he said,

"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.

I thought, that day I started,

I sure would hate to do this all my life.

And dammit, that's just what

I've gone and done."



How Poetry Comes to Me   

It comes blundering over the

boulders at night, it stays

frightened outside the

range of my campfire

I go to meet it at the

edge of the light



      Out there walking round, looking out for food,

      a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack

      plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,

              barely getting by,

      no food out there on dusty slopes of scree-

      carry some—look for some,

      go for a hungry dream.

      Deer bone, Dall sheep,

              bones hunger home.

      Out there somewhere

      a shrine for the old ones,

      the dust of the old bones,

              old songs and tales.

      What we ate—who ate what—

              how we all prevailed.




Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

placed solid, by hands

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

in space and time:

Solidity of bark, leaf or wall

riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

straying planets,

These poems, people,

lost ponies with

Dragging saddles --

and rocky sure-foot trails.

The worlds like an endless


Game of Go.

ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word

a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

with torment of fire and weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all change, in thoughts,

As well as things.



They Drink Tea

There are those who love to get dirty

and fix things.

They drink coffee at dawn,

beer after work.

And those who stay clean,

just appreciate things,

breakfast they have milk

and juice at night.

There are those who do both,

they drink tea.



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