Cave

Jeffrey Yang

I entered the cave by way of Ellora
others have known as Aladra, or Alura,
its level hill signals
no human activity inside it
outside its gardens of luxuriant vegetation
and abundance of water, the falls
tumble down like a reincarnated god
dancing down the crystal threads
down the blue cliff face
faces forgotten faces fixed
you who shaped the mandala streams
while awake in a dream, the three-tiered halls
from darkness to light, shrines
leap out of the walls, carved
bodhisattvas, for two centuries, centuries
before, your hands materialized the mudras in stone,
visualized the pradakshina past
the pillars and pilasters, the ritual cisterns,
open book on a lotus, sketches of forms
untying the knots, a single step
completes the design, I had chosen
the unexamined life and failed, my failings
haunting me here, this place your reverence
named, your names concealed in its signs
triple-bud stem, raised diamond thunderbolt,
garland and song, I was drawn
to the uppermost articulation
in my circumambulations, fine dust
caught in the sunlight, in the gaze
of the stalking lions, against the darkest
recesses, the Perfected One's summoning gesture
for your heroic deeds asked no remembrance
in the image the silence, I was drawn
to the doorway where Janguli sits with royal ease
I performed the sacred rite
as it had been handed down through me
my feet blackened with earth
and in her cognizance she clarified
the poison surging within me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Book of Last Words
Basho says through Hiro,
"Falling ill on a journey my dreams run round a withered field."

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Jeffrey Yang is the author of Hey, MarfaVanishing-Line; and An Aquarium, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is the translator of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo’s June Fourth Elegies. Yang lives in Beacon, New York.

Yang has fashioned a fascinating, multifaceted work—an anti-travel guide, an anti-western, a book of last words—that is a lyrical, anthropological investigation into history, culture, and extremity of place. Paintings and drawings of Marfa’s landscapes and substations by the artist Rackstraw Downes intertwine with Yang’s texts as mutual nodes and lines of energy. Hey, Marfa is a desert diary scaled to music that aspires to emit particles of light.

“Yang’s third book of poems is an ode to the past and present of, yes, Marfa. . . . Yang collaborates here with the artist Rackstraw Downes, and the elegant precision of Downes’s paintings and drawings of an electrical substation is nicely matched by Yang’s playfully exacting lines.”
The New York Times Book Review, The Best Poetry of 2018

“Part-love-song-part-historical-exposé, Jeffery Yang’s Hey, Marfa is a multi-faceted portrait of Marfa, Texas. . . .  A blend of both traditional and experimental forms, Hey, Marfa gives voices of the past space in the present.”
Electric Literature

“Marfa is lucky to earn such a quicksilver ode from Yang, whose poems are flexible, expansive, sonorously clever.”
The Millions

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