Su Tung P’o, Traveling at Night and Looking at the Stars (NPM, 4.25.22)

Heaven high above, the night air chill,
ranged stars crowd the sky, all in proper places,
big stars darting rays back and forth 
little stars busy as boiling water.
Heaven and humans don’t meddle with one another —
what does Heaven do anyway? —
but it’s our habit to insist on pointing at things
and one by one assigning them names.
Southern Sieve, Northern Dipper —
what are these but household utensils?
What would Heaven do with their like?
We’re the ones who decided to call them that.
Peer at things up close and you may learn their true form,
but guessed at from afar, they seem like something else.
Vastness such as this is beyond comprehension —
all I can do is sigh in endless wonder.

Trans. Burton Watson, Selected Poems of Su Tung P’o


As much as you have travelled, I imagine you can relate to this poem—far from city glare, you have had many chances for Nhat Hanh-esque “deep looking”  at night sky … twice in my twenties I had puffs of pot, never any psychedelic drugs (though Bengali-American student once made me “brownies” I wisely passed on to Yvonne, who wrote 20 pages of mind-blown transcript now in my possession), and yet I remember  goosebumps galore in the Nevada desert when the moon filled the sky… it was all beyond my comprehension and I still sigh in wonder…

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