Dragon Breath River

Left on Thatch Hut, In Departure

Those poet recluses in ancient seclusion,
it’s a whim beyond human space.

Sail up to those immortal headwaters,
verse runs free among maiden hair trees.

Even leaves of duckweed can drift together again
but for now, my poems won’t crowd your walls.

Tending to Garden Amidst Blossoms

Recluse path swept clean of peach blossoms
tatters of mist snagged on bull reeds. A dozy

tiger rocks harmlessly in a hammock, half tame deer
idle by. Yellow dragonflies zip in mist, radiant

scales left behind. Gathered up, instant sight of you
amidst countless valleys and peaks, conversing in

bamboo groves. I’ll take them to a sage,
vast distances for the wisest.

Dragon Breath Monastery in Vast Distance

Residing up river, curtained by maiden hairs,
veiled in azure mist, Dragon Breath Monastery.

Monks and sages seek out its ancient reclusion,
I seek a solitary answer. Single oar stroke begins

a great journey, five willow sway bades me farewell.
Yellow dragonfly perched on oar, only company on vast and vague waters.



Perpetual canopy of mist hangs over Dragon Breath River.
Locals speak of a vast river lord, it’s immortal fire

cooled. Chronicled by poet recluses, their pens cleaned
in waterfall peaks, this river stained ink black.

Ch’u Yuan could be lost to these depths. Humps dive below,
dragon or dolphin, impossible to tell. The fish swim, unconcerned.


Sacrificial platforms filled for the
dragon, smell lingers on dense gauze.

Abandoned villages lie overgrown, constricted.
Misshapen foxes waddle through misted thickets.


Oar song recites in broken rhythms,
spaces collapsed by wailing gibbons,

abstract roars haunt Master Pang realms.
Sunken rock disturbs singing oar, gibbons

silenced. Crane abandons pine top, its
rider lost in the ancient smoke.


Limit of vision, a hanging lantern,
silhouettes of trout rise and vanish.

Splash – faint, no more. Craft slide
by, inevitable dark reasserts itself.


Jackals shift in and out of mist,
melon dust scattered from untended gardens.

Sign of heavens change, recluse wanders
up stream leave empty thatch wrapped in green vine.

Suns blaze absent here, definition and time
fade in smoke. Incantations of

three hundred verses wish all safe passage,
lone voice amidst the great hollow.


From the river mist divides, woodcutters scattered
lamps vanish into innumerable pines. Clouds

of moths appear on the other side. Chuang Tzu
visions in smoke, myriad of forms wander freely.


Raft moored in shore, shelter from the night
taken in an deserted hut. Left on a wall –

In search of Red Pine, South Mountain calls me.
Visitors welcome – cliffs the gate, pines the path,

yard the river, steps the rocks. Watch out for tigers.
Sleep beckons, lone yellow dragonfly grooms on a

cracked sill. Starlight drops through open thatch.
I leave a fire outside – an invite for passing monks and recluses.


From the shore, oar song wakes me. I gaze and gaze into
gossamer, met with a white haired fisher man.

A silent recognition leads to the sharing of morning soup.
Tufted ducks paddle by, pay us no attention.


Sentinels rise river beyond river, ancient forests
shimmer in and out of sight, all illusory under

lingering gossamer. A red tower rises, cloistered
in moss, a thousand magpies perched on

rooftop and struts, all screeching into star
river depths. In this vast hollow, they are my only company.


Tomorrow turns yesterday turns tomorrow. I’ve
sailed in and out of weeks, lost in an

ancient forever. Mist and cloud have fused,
travelers loneliness pervades my every

pore. Even the moon has lost me. Maybe
I’ll see the sky raft wanderer.


Bell sounds through mist, haunting women’s lament.
In indomitable cliffs, stone Buddha’s part

ancient gossamer. No matter their size, all
just holes in the privy. Oar song

recommences a silent tune, clarity lies beyond.
Sun peeks through the haze, a chariot passing through.


The shallows have captured a river junk, immortal moss
clusters the hull, jade creepers mingle with frayed rigging.

Howling monkeys scramble up and down torn sails, white
egrets lay sticks down on shattered masts. A bridge lies

ahead in overgrown ruin, crossed only by flying gibbons. Sail
onwards, gossamer veil covers all, all returns to the Dark Enigma.


Dragon Breath Monastery, In Plain Sight

Banners billow in azure winds, mist thinned, spires rise
into waterfall peaks. Dragon Breath Monastery

in crystalline serenity. Monks welcome me a shore, smiles
vast and wide. Sun shines bright in

the absence of clinging haze,
yellow dragonfly scoots over duckweed.

Meditation Hall, Asking Monks for Assistance

Dragonfly wings hum through meditation halls,
monks look, feel yellow scales. Books of the

way and discussions lead us into red dust alleys. I
must go westwards – those pine green fathoms hide

their abbot in hermitage, his clarity capable
of seeing into this pregnant emptiness.

Solitude Trail, Seeking an Answer

Ancient trees line solitude trail, snaked
above mist shrouded peaks and gorges.

Nesting herons watch my solitary steps,
tumbling pine cones birth the only sounds. Hermitage rises,

emerald moss in pine green,a land often thousand surprises.
You didn’t find poet recluses, but something much better.

I cast aside scales for a simple embrace.
Woodlouse cluster. You never did mind them.

Two People, Under the Maiden Hair

Under the maiden hair trees, just two people,
on dharma mats, empty and silent.

Endless smiles by the pond, yellow dragonflies
zoom in clarity. Tomorrow

I’ll sail open azure radiance, but I’ll spend
the night in comfort, your crystalline

words taking us beyond the floating life,
but even for a moment.


Back Home, In Simplicity, Wondering

Fragments of azure swept from my recluse path.
Tiger idles thorough my open gate, my hammock drifts again.

In far beyond distance, mist and cloud have closed
together. Gazing, wondering…will I ever see Dragon Breath again?


Again, poets and poems who influenced this (more to be added): http://skyraftwanderer.blogspot.com/2012/03/poems-various.html

Picture’s 1, 5, 6 found here: http://nigensha.co.jp/kokyu/en/top.html

Picture 2 found here: http://buddhist-art.arthistory.northwestern.edu/arthistory_240/chinese_painting2.html

Picture 4 found here: http://riowang.blogspot.com/2008/04/blog-post.html

Picture 7 found here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b3/Xiao_and_Xiang_rivers.jpg/800px-Xiao_and_Xiang_rivers.jpg


About skyraftwanderer

A person who enjoys writing short story things, poetry and other random things that come into my head.
This entry was posted in Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Dragon Breath River

  1. Evelyn says:

    This is extensive, it was lulling to have phrases and words repeated tho and I found myself feeling woven into the poem, if that makes sense…

    • Yeah, it makes sense. I realised at some point with something bigger like this I’d have to establish some sense of continuity.

      To see that work well is pleasing. Thank you for commenting.

  2. claudia says:

    just read evelyn’s comment…makes perfect sense..happened to me as well…trying to unweave and move on..smiles

  3. Pat Hatt says:

    Dragon breath river really sucked me in, quite the epic tale all weaved together wonderfully, nice.

  4. “a great journey, five willow sway bades me farewell.
    Yellow dragonfly perched on oar, only company on vast and vague waters.”

    Such tangible imagery, drew me right in…this one especially had me wishing to transcend screen and place myself in this situation. Solitary with sun on my shoulders. 🙂

  5. Beth Winter says:

    Beautiful and engaging, so many images in one presentation, like entering a scene and absorbing all of it.

  6. Andrew Kreider says:

    Maiden hair and dragon breath. Such rich imagery – drew me right in. What a journey!

    • I got lucky with the maiden hair. Was playing around with origami leaves and was one a maiden hair. And Wikipedia did the rest. Dragon Breath was a conscious decision from the word go.

      Thank you for commenting.

  7. hedgewitch says:

    Dreamy and full of reverie.

  8. brian miller says:

    smiles…i like how you mixed your moniker in there…sky raft wanderer…ha…i like that stanza…this def gave a sense of place and people…culture…i was right there throughout…well done..

  9. hobgoblin2011 says:

    wow. Adjectival euphoria here. Love the descriptions and quick bites of description. The “headings in bold” each offering something of its own, yet also adding a sense of continuation. The piece adds up for me as if ancient scrolls merge with tumbler feeds- so creative, so fresh. Outstanding piece. Thanks

    • Thank you for the comment.

      But it’s not utterly unique. Wang Wei wrote a similar series based on his Wheel Rim River Hermitage called Wheel Rim River and Hsieh Ling Yun wrote a magnificent numbered series (hence my numbers for the middle) simply called “Dwelling In The Mountains”, almost fifty poems of pure clarity. If you can read them both do so, both exceptional pieces of writing.

  10. 1emeraldcity says:

    What a journey! The haiga – outstanding! Immersion – complete. A really lovely epic:))

  11. christi moon says:

    unique and intersting word choices in this piece really add to the vivid imagery.

    really enjoyed the mythical tone and ethereal qualities of this piece. nicely done skyraftwanderer — C.

  12. Chazinator says:

    This is very very enthralling, bearing repeated visits. I got a flash of Borges for some reason, perhaps because of the mystery of exotic places, searches, and the enigmatic ending. You’ve concentrated so much into each line, weaving in nature so seamlessly that it gives the impression of the narrator melting into the landscape. The sense of place is palpable, astonishing given the fact the you’ve put this together (it seems) from historical and ethnographic material. Thank you, an excellent write.

    • Thank you for the comment.

      I like the point of the narrator melting away. It’s something prevalent in Chinese poetry and something I am for whenever I write this.

      The whole thing is based off pictures and poems from ancient China. I would dearly love to see what I am writing about in person. I have a feeling it’s the only way I can shoot for the next level.

  13. C Rose says:

    Lovely journey easily taken with the way you have cleverly evoked the imagery of this. ~ Rose

  14. Lindy Lee says:

    Another fine trip with Skyraft as professional guide & docent…

  15. Lindy Lee says:

    …along Dragon Breath River.

  16. cloudfactor5 says:

    This is so epic and intense I feel myself drawn back to read and reread over and over again! I can only surmise that Dragon’s Breath has a very addictive quality! I think this poem just swallows me whole as I imagine a Dragon would! Wow

  17. Mairi Graham says:

    A beautiful reinterpretation/ recycling of Wang Wei and Hsieh Ling Yun’s forms. The series feels poised between two cultures, two periods in history, as if the journey it records has travelled the road between them.

    • Thank you for the comment.

      It’s nice to see the inspirations noticed although I am hoping, in time, the reliance on the poets get less and less. I won’t stop enjoying them and being inspired by them but in time, and with experience the words will be more my own.

      The point about crossing cultures is interesting. I never intended for that to happen, but if it came out then that makes me happy.

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