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By Kenneth Rexroth

You were a girl of satin and gauze

Now you are my mountain and waterfall companion.   

Long ago I read those lines of Po Chu I   

Written in his middle age.

Young as I was they touched me.

I never thought in my own middle age   

I would have a beautiful young dancer

To wander with me by falling crystal waters,   

Among mountains of snow and granite,   

Least of all that unlike Po’s girl

She would be my very daughter.


The earth turns towards the sun.   

Summer comes to the mountains.   

Blue grouse drum in the red fir woods   

All the bright long days.

You put blue jay and flicker feathers   

In your hair.

Two and two violet green swallows   

Play over the lake.

The blue birds have come back

To nest on the little island.

The swallows sip water on the wing   

And play at love and dodge and swoop

Just like the swallows that swirl   

Under and over the Ponte Vecchio.   

Light rain crosses the lake

Hissing faintly. After the rain

There are giant puffballs with tortoise shell backs   

At the edge of the meadow.

Snows of a thousand winters

Melt in the sun of one summer.   

Wild cyclamen bloom by the stream.   

Trout veer in the transparent current.

In the evening marmots bark in the rocks.

The Scorpion curls over the glimmering ice field.

A white crowned night sparrow sings as the moon sets.   

Thunder growls far off.

Our campfire is a single light

Amongst a hundred peaks and waterfalls.

The manifold voices of falling water

Talk all night.

Wrapped in your down bag   

Starlight on your cheeks and eyelids

Your breath comes and goes

In a tiny cloud in the frosty night.

Ten thousand birds sing in the sunrise.

Ten thousand years revolve without change.

All this will never be again.


Kenneth Rexroth, “The Wheel Revolves” from The Collected Shorter Poems. Copyright © 1966 by Kenneth Rexroth. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: The Collected Shorter Poems (1966)

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Poet Bio

Kenneth Rexroth
Kenneth Rexroth was born in South Bend, Indiana and frequently moved around the Midwest during his childhood. He led a tumultuous life that included being orphaned at 14, constant traveling both in the US and abroad, intense political activism, and four marriages. Largely self-educated, he is one of the most well-read poets of the 20th century. His poems, which influenced Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reflect this tremendous reading, and emphasize ecology, sexuality, and mysticism. In his poem “Discrimination,” Rexroth shows a more political side as he cleverly mocks racial stereotypes. See More By This Poet

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