tagNon-Erotic PoetryAn Ode to Li Bai

An Ode to Li Bai

byseannelson©

"My ship is built of spice-wood and has a rudder of mulan;
Musicians sit at the two ends
with jeweled bamboo flutes and pipes of gold.

What a joy it is, with a cask of sweet wine
and singing girls beside me,
to drift on the water hither and thither
led by the blue waves!!"      
- the Chinese poet Li Bai, or Li Po



Like me
he grew up upper-middle class,
and yet was casteless and classless
amid fantastic wild mountains

was taught by diverse trees
by flowers and bees
and by Gaiia's birds and beasts

he lived fully, freely, even wildly
and thus came his powerful words:
he consorted with farmers and Taoists,
courtesans, artists, and also the emperor -
who personally served him soup

he was showered with favors
and wrote brilliant work
which fed his vast fame,
but his drunken wildness
shattered the vases of his good fortune

Thus he came to travel
new fantastic regions through,
with wrathful sword running through
any unsavory rogue or beast
to block his path

And he drank wine freely
and had adventures
with worthy companions like Fu Du,
and frequently composed
which is the work that poets do

But soon, his fortune ebbed
and he fell afoul of the law
and into a dungeon,
but his many admirers
quickly freed him

And after a few more years' wandering,
nature also freed him
from feeble old age


But even now
over a millennium later,
China wisely honors him
and he lives on in ivory clouds
floating over dark forest mountains,
and in thousands of sculptures
in neat, wild gardens
where poets such as he
like to meditate and contemplate,

and put this world
of farmers and crows
lotus flowers and airplanes
ants and titanic sky-scrapers :
all into poetry ,

as a farmer turns soil into food,
a logger a forest into wood,
and the citizen entrepreneur
chaos into something good

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