From “101 Zen Stories” (as presented in “Zen Flesh Zen Bones”)
88. How To Write a Chinese Poem
A well-known Japanese poet was asked how to compose a Chinese poem.
“The usual Chinese poem is four lines,” he explained. “The first line contains the initial phase; the second line, the continuation of that phrase; the third line turns from this subject and begins a new one; and the fourth line brings the first three lines together. A popular Japanese song illustrates this:
Two daughters of a silk merchant live in Kyoto.
The elder is twenty, the younger, eighteen.
A soldier may kill with his sword,
But these girls slay men with their eyes.”
Since I find this style of poetry amusing, I’ll be trying my hand at it. (I also love that this is supposedly a Zen story. And of course, that a Chinese poem is illustrated by a popular Japanese song. Those Zen storytellers are so culturally sensitive.)
So, in lieu of calling it my attempt at a popular Japanese song style or Chinese poetry, I’ll call it 88-style.
There are many restaurants in Park Slope,
One fancier, and more pricy, than the next.
The bus runs every twelve minutes,
Will our waitress ever return?