In the Chinese garden,
The murmur of water underlies
Staccato bursts of human conversation.
A room made for a poet from open air,
Curious rocks (wind- and water-carved),
A pleasing harmony of plants –
Subtle orchids, dracaenas, false Aurelia,
In one crevice an African violet –
Strange placefellows to old Chinese woods,
Black and deep red-brown,
And the ancient, worn-rotten limestone.
I sit for a few minutes, in search of quietude,
Some peace among the rough edges of my life.
The room is full of the sound of water,
The museum guard walks by, puzzled
At the sight of a middle-aged woman crying.
Note: “T’an-yu” is the inscription on the moon gate of the Chinese garden in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It means “In search of quietude.”