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You May Leave a Memory, Or You Can be Feted by Crows

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Three years, Huang Gongwang
worked on his famous handscroll,
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

As he put successive applications of ink to paper
over the “one burst of creation,” his original design,
it is said he often sang like a tree frog
and danced on his old bare feet.

One day, he adds one hemp fiber stroke,
the next a moss dot.

What patience he had,
like a cat who comes back season after season to a mole’s tunnel.

Honors may go to others.
Riches may go to others.
Huang Gongwang has one great job to do.

And he sings like a tree frog,
and he dances on old bare feet.


Source: Poetry (December 2011)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

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You May Leave a Memory, Or You Can be Feted by Crows

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