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Attributed to Qu Ding

Though we gather ourselves
out of this hush, out of these summer palaces
and mountainside pavilions, from the absence
of sound that attends the ending of a sudden shower,
and the return of daily sounds rushing into this voidó
geese signaling their pleasure, laundry clapped
against stonesówe will never be more
than apart from all this. It makes a kind of clothing
that we wear, outfit not fashioned
for comfort or protection, but as though an alb
made of mists hung in the vestry,
awaiting certain ceremonies
and sacraments, the evening's late hesitation
above the river, the avenues turned to glass
in the chemistry of rain. Nothing, it goes
with everything, and so we bring it out
as one might have the imperial librarian descend
to the archives for the scroll on sized
silk and uncoil its soft cinema
between royal hands, right to left.
This pastiche of light, this allegory of weather
where the rain stands for the fertility of rain
and the host peak and its attendants range like a court
that will rule forever, but with the benign
impartiality of rock and water. Whether memory
or mirror we could hardly say,
yet this slip of cloth woven from unwound cocoons
and deepened with valleys and sheltered retreats
seems to give us back to ourselves,
an urgency of air we hadn't noticed
but was with us all along, when the wind, for instance
came in through the window with transparent messages
that announced the storm and were the storm.

Mark Sullivan

Alaska Quarterly Review

Fall & Winter 2013

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