I thumb through the pages of a book of Chinese verse: I read about the scattering autumn wind and the brevity Of youth, the poet anonymous, written in 232 B.C. In another poem the poet is unhappy In his outpost duties, an exile, far from home, Friendships broken, in 802. Armies march Against hapless peasants, villages burned, People go hungry for years, in 1212. Blossoms fall too early, a great River winds below the mountain hut of the poet, Who meditates and lives like a hermit On bowls of rice and fish heads, 1816. I too have cups of cheap wine And sit in my small garden damp from rain. The neighbors squabble behind the fence, The air is heavy with rancor. Already there are five wars in my life. One small war today brews, following on The heels of another. I have only aged past fifty And sit in the summer twilight, in the year 2000, Reading poetry until dark.