Friday Poem

Li Ho

Li Ho of the province of Honan
(not to be confused with the god Li Po
of Kansu or Szechuan
who made twenty thousand verses)
Li Ho, whose mother said,
“my son daily vomits up his heart”
mounts his horse and rides
to where a temple lies as lace among foliage.
His youth is bargained
for some poems in his saddlebag—
his beard is gray. Leaning
against the flank of his horse he considers
the flight of birds
but his hands are heavy. (Take this cup,
he thinks, fill it, I want to drink again.)
Deep in his throat, but perhaps it is a bird,
he hears a child cry.

by Jim Harrison
from Selected and New Poems
Delacorte Press, 1965