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Endowment


Han-shan is not indifferent to fame.
Often he imagines himself winner
Of the literary competition held each
Year at the capital, to which end
He stores his poems in the family's
Ivory ringbox, ready for transport
Should the invitation come.

Ah, he thinks, at fall festival to stand
Among the great bards of the province!

What troubles him is that he has no robe
Fit to wear in such company nor any way
To arrive at the august presentation
Except on foot. No one he knows
Owns a mule he might borrow
For a trip to town.

Then there are those scandalous reports
He hears of what the judges demand
For a favorable decision.
A coupling for a couplet!
What, Han-shan wonders, would a villanelle
Cost him by way of quittance.

Each year, on the night of funding,
He sits at the crag's lip reading his pieces
Toward town in his loudest voice,
But no runner comes upmountain
To announce the good news.

So he adds another season's worth
Of poems to his already brimming box
And plants another garden in the purlieus
Of summer, telling himself that in all reason
He should have been a ringmaker
Like his father.


George Scarbrough

Under the Lemon Tree
Iris Press


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