He gazed at Denali beyond the lake
until he lost all sense of time or place
before he knelt down to examine new
green shoots at its edge. “What do you think
of the mountain?” the man at his side asked.
He had climbed it in both summer and winter
and thought Li Bai was another Chinese tourist
and not a Banished Immortal, however confused.
“Honor it with your absence,” Li Bai replied.
Li Bai Watches the Tundra Fade at Dusk
He was walking along a gravel bench
above a stream when he looked up
at the tundra that was just beginning
to fade reminding him of the rouge
on a beautiful woman’s cheeks.
This was the time of day he loved
when the moon was beginning to rise.
He was no longer young, but once
he was a bright flame fed by desire.
Li Bai on the Road to Kantishna
When would he find the stream
that would take him home even if
this is a dream? Sadness filled his cup.
He thought of his mistress, of peach
blossoms covering her garden path.
Yesterday he met a man wearing
the head of a wolf for a hat, a wolf
that reminded him of China’s wooly-
wolves. “I’m a recreational trapper,”
the man said. “It gets me out here
in the woods with all the critters.
My hat was once an alpha female.”
Li Bai and the Brown Bear
When he saw it ahead of him on the road,
he was amazed by its size, and he had seen bears
when he wandered Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
When the bear turned its massive head
to look at him, Li Bai quickly composed a poem
in its honor, a poem about its generous
nature and courage. As he chanted, he bent
forward rolling his shoulders from side to side.
Li Bai Arrives at the Murie Cabin
How had he missed this small cabin
during his long summer of wandering,
searching for the pass that would
take him home? Inside the cabin,
he found a copy of Wang Wei’s poem,
“Peach-Blossom Spring.” Someone’s
studying for his civil-service exam,
he thought, then because it was there,
he drank a cup of tea then took a nap.
When he woke, he wrote, “Thank you
for the tea. You should study Li Bai.”
I meet Li Bai Near the Summit of Polychrome Pass
Acrophobia had turned me to stone near
the summit when I saw him leaning over
the edge for a better look. When he saw me
motionless except for my shaking knees,
he called, “This view deserves its own poem,
why are you on the far side of the road
away from the edge if you’re a poet?”
He’s as agile as a mountain goat,
I thought. With my eyes on the ground,
I turned and made my way back down.
When I reached the cabin, it was cold.
His long beard was as white as a snowy owl.
Li Bai Says Goodbye
He smiled when the Milky Way, his Heaven’s
River, appeared for the first time since he
arrived. I put it there for him to follow home,
but he wanted to sleep beside Wonder Lake
one more time then wake beneath Denali.
He would spend his last day wandering
and end at Polychrome Pass at dusk to say
goodbye to the yellow-crowned sparrow
whose song had made him weep with joy.
Using his long silk robe for a sail, he rose
then disappeared to the west, trailing alpenglow.
He was on the side of a hill eating berries
when he looked up and saw something
in the sky, a golden eagle he thought
but he soon realized it was the figure
that followed him on the road one night,
that made him roll on the tundra laughing.
Her stood on his hind legs, swaying a little
from side to side, his massive teeth clicking,
a lament for a friend he would never see again.