A Chinese Vase

Sometimes I think that my body is a vase
With me in it, a blue-tiled Chinese vase

That I return to, sometimes, in the rain.
It’s raining hard, but inside the little china vase

There is clean white water circling slowly
Through the shadows like a flock of yellow geese

Circling over a small lake, or like the lake itself
Ruffled with wind and geese in a light rain

That is not dirty, or stained, or even ruffled by
The medley of motors and oars and sometimes even sails

That are washed each summer to her knees. It’s raining
In the deep poplars and in the stand of gray pines;

It’s snowing in the mountains, in the Urals, in the
Wastes of Russia that have edged off into China;

The rain has turned to sleet and the sleet
Has turned to snow in the sullen black clouds

That have surfaced in the cracks of that Chinese
Vase, in the wrinkles that have widened like rivers

In that vase of china. It’s snowing harder and harder
Now over the mountains, but inside the mountains

There is a sunlit cave, a small cave, perhaps,
Like a monk’s cell, or like a small pond

With geese and with clear mountain water inside.
Sometimes I think that I come back to my body

The way a penitent or a pilgrim or a poet
Or a whore or a murderer or a very young girl

Comes for the first time to a holy place
To kneel down, to forget the impossible weight

Of being human, to drink clear water.