Rexroth Poems (1970s)


From The Silver Swan
From The Love Poems of Marichiko
From On Flower Wreath Hill
As the full moon rises...



An hour before sunrise,
The moon low in the East,
Soon it will pass the sun.
The Morning Star hangs like a
Lamp, beside the crescent,
Above the greying horizon.
The air warm, perfumed,
An unseasonably warm,
Rainy Autumn, nevertheless
The leaves turn color, contour
By contour down the mountains.
I watch the wavering,
Coiling of the smoke of a
Stick of temple incense in
The rays of my reading lamp.
Moonlight appears on my wall
As though I raised it by
Incantation. I go out
Into the wooded garden
And walk, nude, except for my
Sandals, through light and dark banded
Like a field of sleeping tigers.
Our raccoons watch me from the
Walnut tree, the opossums
Glide out of sight under the
Woodpile. My dog Ch’ing is asleep.
So is the cat. I am alone
In the stillness before the
First birds wake. The night creatures
Have all gone to sleep. Blackness
Looms at the end of the garden,
An impenetrable cube.
A ray of the Morning Star
Pierces a shaft of moon-filled mist.
A naked girl takes form
And comes toward me — translucent,
Her body made of infinite
Whirling points of light, each one
A galaxy, like clouds of
Fireflies beyond numbering.
Through them, star and moon
Still glisten faintly. She comes
To me on imperceptibly
Drifting air, and touches me
On the shoulder with a hand
Softer than silk. She says
“Lover, do you know what Heart
You have possessed?”
Before I can answer, her
Body flows into mine, each
Corpuscle of light merges
With a corpuscle of blood or flesh.
As we become one the world
Vanishes. My self vanishes.
I am dispossessed, only
An abyss without limits.
Only dark oblivion
Of sense and mind in an
Illimitable Void.
Infinitely away burns
A minute red point to which
I move or which moves to me.
Time fades away. Motion is
Not motion. Space becomes Void.
A ruby fire fills all being.
It opens, not like a gate,
Like hands in prayer that unclasp
And close around me.
Then nothing. All senses ceased.
No awareness, nothing,
Only another kind of knowing
Of an all encompassing
Love that has consumed all being.
Time has had a stop.
Space is gone.
Grasping and consequence
Never existed. The aeons have fallen away.

Suddenly I am standing
In my garden, nude, bathed in
The hot brilliance of the new
Risen sun — star and crescent gone into light.






Making love with you
Is like drinking sea water.
The more I drink
The thirstier I become,
Until nothing can slake my thirst
But to drink the entire sea.


Come to me, as you come
Softly to the rose bed of coals
Of my fireplace
Glowing through the night-bound forest.


Your tongue thrums and moves
Into me, and I become
Hollow and blaze with
Whirling light, like the inside
Of a vast expanding pearl.


I waited all night.
By midnight I was on fire.
In the dawn, hoping
To find a dream of you,
I laid my weary head
On my folded arms,
But the songs of the waking
Birds tormented me.


When in the Noh theater
We watched Shizuka Gozen
Trapped in the snow,
I enjoyed the tragedy,
For I thought,
Nothing like this
Will ever happen to me.


The night is too long to the sleepless.
The road is too long to the footsore.
Life is too long to a woman
Made foolish by passion.
Why did I find a crooked guide
On the twisted paths of love?


Chilled through, I wake up
With the first light. Outside my window
A red maple leaf floats silently down.
What am I to believe?
I hate the sight of coming day
Since that morning when
Your insensitive gaze turned me to ice
Like the pale moon in the dawn.





This world of ours, before we
Can know its fleeting sorrows,
We enter it through tears.
Do the reverberations
Of the evening bell of
The mountain temple ever
Totally die away?
Memory echoes and reechoes
Always reinforcing itself.
No wave motion ever dies.
The white waves of the wake of
The boat that rows away into
The dawn, spread and lap on the
Sands of the shores of all the world.




As the full moon rises . . .

As the full moon rises
The swan sings
In sleep
On the lake of the mind.




All of these poems, like most of the others from Rexroth’s final years, were written in Japan.

The Love Poems of Marichiko were originally published as if they had been written by a young Japanese woman and Rexroth had merely translated them. In reality there was no such person as Marichiko — the poems were all written by Rexroth himself, projecting himself into a feminine persona around the same time that he was translating numerous other actual women poets of China and Japan.

As the full moon rises . . . is engraved on Rexroth’s tombstone.

Copyright 1979 Kenneth Rexroth. Copyright 2003 Copper Canyon Press. Reproduced by permission of Copper Canyon Press and New Directions Publishing Corp.

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