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Buff Whitman-Bradley

Front Porch

for Sonja Margulies -- March 9, 1931April 27, 2013*


Sitting on my front porch

Watching small white butterflies

Caper in the valerian

I am thinking of you

Sitting on your new front porch

With your lifelong literary companion

Su Tung-P’o

The two of you gossiping

About the peccadilloes of the court poets

And the ridiculous new fashions in the capital

You light each other’s cigarettes

Fill each other’s cups first with strong tea

Then with spring wine

A white heron passing overhead

Turns your conversation

To the topic of artistic beauty

And the natural world

Can a poem ever be as exquisite

As a blade of grass

Or a spider’s web?

You agree and disagree for hours

(Do hours exist on your new front porch?)

For the pure pleasure of

Keeping each other company

A pleasure no longer available

To those of us who were your friends

Here in the ephemeral world

On the phone a few days before you died

You said

Don’t forget me

And I assured you that I never will

And do the dead also remember?

Do you grieve?

What would you like us to know?

Perhaps you and Su Tung-P’o                                       

Can exchange views on these matters

As pink and white petals of crabapple blossoms

Drift through evening

On moonlight’s pale tide

And you pour yourselves a little more

Of that heady new wine


* Sonja Margulies was a transmitted teacher in the Zen Buddhist lineage of Kobun Chino Otogawa., Roshi. From girlhood, she loved the poetry of Sung Dynasty poet Su Tung-P’o.  Her book of poems,  Local News, was published shortly before she died.  It is available from Amazon.



Buff Whitman-Bradley is the author of four books of poetry – b. eagle, poet, The Honey Philosophies, Realpolitik: Poems of Protest, Outrage and Resistance, and When Compasses Grow Old, and a chapbook, Everything Wakes Up! His poems have appeared in many print and online journals. He is also co-editor, with Cynthia Whitman-Bradley and Sarah Lazare, of the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California.