One of the pleasures of having a poetry book is that at poetry readings I am sometimes asked to trade copies with another poet. That’s how I came upon Water Chasing Water by Koon Woon. Our conversation also resulted in the review of Sparrow at Five Willows.
So here is the poem that spoke to me this morning:
THE QUESTION I WANT TO ASK
A command sets a thousand horses galloping
while a question merely drops a frog into a pond.
Elsewhere the required question is not the same.
Elsewhere they ask for rain, for harvests, and for newborns
to pick up the heavy plows.
Elsewhere there are infants to pick up, messages to scurry.
One nation is on fire, another in revolt, still a third one quakes.
I peer out at the pond. I am the dwarf of Socrates
looking at humanity, the midget of Isaac Newton looking
at the invisible gravity.
The frog sits on a single lotus leaf, its eyes pinhole cameras
to record its domain
from an ill-defined mosquito to a very deliberate water snake.
It has been ten years since the frog leaped from my mouth.
At water’s edge the water lilies have transformed
from buds to jungle foliage, and every cell in my body
has been washed and replaced.
Grassy fields have turned golden, then brown.
I ask the wind if it would listen.
Elsewhere the wind sweeps a fire across a prairie.
The pond now smooth as a bald man’s head,
swallows my question but gives no answer.
But I am no longer disappointed that it is so, and
the thousand horses that went galloping
return now of their own accord.