Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Penzai on a mural in the Tang Dynasty
tomb of Prince Li Xian, 706 CE

“The first highly prized trees are believed to have been collected in
the wild and were full of twists, knots, and deformities. These were
seen as sacred, of no practical profane value for timber or other
ordinary purpose.” - From the Wikipedia entry on penzai

At first, what was sought looked like what we are: bent concisions
formed naturally, a graceful response to unnatural stresses. Later,
artifice and craft took matters in hand and applied their snip-shears
to the very root of things. That’s why, wearing night to hide myself,
I broke into the nursery where all penzai are formed, stole one or a
hundred, climbed up past clouds to the ash-laden soil on the side of
a mountain. That’s where, wearing a waterfall disguise, I wheedled
the crescent moon down to help me dig holes in the dirt, replanting
each damaged tree in its own cast shadow, to grow as it would. For
a day or an age we’ll hide in that new-old forest, spinning my thefts
into raveling yarns of the sacred, the impractical, the heroic; collect
and recollect one another, confessing to no crime at all.