Just up the road, the trees are felled,
the birds replaced. (Note
the passive, the invisible
chainsaw, the couple
away for the week.) Tanagers,
gone, crossbills, gone,
but here are the field-loving
swallows, the shrub-hugging
cardinals, a late light
that lingers. And tonight
it’s an old poet who’s arrived,
the one who fluttered waterside,
calling himself a gull
between heaven and earth
but soon will die traveling
down the Yangtze, trying
to reach home. He steps
slowly around the pond, studies
its sturdy grasses. “Is
any change welcome?” I blurt out, “was
there ever a change
you welcomed?” Not even
the motherless moon,
he says, not even
the garden gate grating open
when a friend calls, because
even in his greeting,
his going, such clanging
behind, even
in the moon’s rising, its
Not helpful,
not helpful, I say
to myself. Ah, but the voices, says Tu Fu,
staring intently now, the voices
come to one awaiting voices, no?

I nod, not knowing to what,
and Tu Fu nods back,
solemnly, and I,
getting excited, nod some more,
but he just shakes his head. Too much,
he says, too much. And I—
Listen, listener: I meant
for this
to be different, meant
to say it outright: Be near,
remain so, care
Out of all that,
this. I cling
like the red-winged blackbird
I just cut from this poem
as it landed on a reed
till it buckled, clinging,
buckling, till soon
Tu Fu is slipping
away, ducking
into the woods when he thinks
I’m not looking. I hear him now
singing from the world’s end:
I am fleeing south
but I linger
looking north…