for Meng Chiao (751–814)
“All has come to nothing,” he writes. In old age his clothes are tattered and thin, His hut without a door; sick, He suffers bad dreams. I turn to the biography section To make sense of his bitterness and failure. “A poet suffers making poems — better to waste your efforts trying to fly.” Incompetent at a minor government post, He lost his job and lived off friends and patrons. His whole life he was poor and failed to gain A reputation for his poetry. “My whole life, a spirit of useless squawking . . .” His poetry made people sad And was often dismissed and went unread. I spent most of this morning’s drizzle and cold Reading eleven of his poems, Then sadly flipped through the pages To another century.