Drinking with Li Bai
by Kevin Trammel
I fall asleep in the chair
reading Li Bai’s white-hair-poems-at-heaven’s-gate —
it’s the eve of my sixtieth year.
I wish I could drink wine with him, who loved wine so,
beside a chattering mountain stream in autumn,
casting poems into the water
like smoothe stones, and laughter!
O, what glorious laughter it would be!
Such laughter as only the Taoist sage may know.
The laughter of the gods!
Laughter that comes from complete indifference
to the world and its endless, insoluble perplexities,
and freedom from its ceaseless toil
whose fruits are merely the bitter fuel
to charge the never-ending ritual
of work-a-day unto day unto death.
If the gods are placated by that ancient rite of survival,
then they are no gods of ours,
we who love the Tao and drink of its ever flowing waters,
receiving the most blissful inebriation,
abiding the sanctity of that temple
of fresh breezes in nodding ferns and grasses —
behold the eloquent dance of cedar boughs
in response to the drawn bow
of a soft stream-side breeze.
Li Bai will drink with me,
I know he will — perhaps
he does right now in an inner haven
where souls, having laid aside the body’s travail,
may rest and restore their brightness
and enjoy company
with their fellows on similar travels.
Here’s to us, my fellow poet,
as we drink deep and have no shame
for the inebriation which
even the gods envy,
that which opens the inner eye
that the soul may swoon
within the vastness and awesome consciousness
of its own divine grandeur.