Dispatch: Basho to Han-shan
for George Scarbrough

White-skinned as geishas, the sycamores
wet their feet in the river. Delicate,
they have lost their blossoms to the wind,
lost their bark to summer weather.

The paper moon drinks light
from their trunks, so supple, so elegant.
Listen to the silk voices
of whip-poor-will, chuck-will’s widow.

On the bank I drink my dark wine
and brush these symbols onto folded boats
of willow paper. From my cradle of roots
and clay, I look up through the wishbone boughs
and wonder what poem you are dreaming
on your Tellico Blue mountain.

Across a vast world, a sundered
century and a lonesome hour
I send you this sycamore letter
to say I wish you well.

-R. T. Smith