Tuesday, November 21, 2023



a tip of the cap to Mike Luster

"Our dear friend and great musician Claude Stephenson passed away (31 Aug. 2023) at his home in Albuquerque's South Valley. Claude played mandolin and guitar, and was truly one-of-a-kind. If you ever met him, you won't forget. Here is his original instrumental Olive Blossom Hornpipe, recorded with Elliott's Ramblers and Byron Berline. Whenever I saw him, I would request we play this tune. I raise my glass and play a tune for you, my friend."

Jeffrey Forbes



Cold Mountain Poems


These days

    Men who saw Cold Mountain

In person

Thought him crazy.



        The face apart,

Body in rags & things

    Like you shouldn't notice.

What I said

He didn't hear.

What he said

I won't repeat.


    Go on, I tell

    Those to come

All ye

Go on

To the Cold Mountain.


Out of clothes? Go find yours.

Don't get a fox to take off his coat.

Wanting food? Pick our own.

Don't trick a goat into providing for you.

To ask for a loan of the pelt

& flesh as well

Is to hold with their sadness & misery,

regrets all around.

The force for good is gone

From the world.

Food & clothing not where they should be.


The poor donkey is short one measure

Of fodder,

The rich dog has three inches of bed straw to spare.

If poverty is not evenly distributed

Wealth and hardship will not meet in the middle.

Just when you begin to provide for the donkey

You make the dogs feel deprived.

Think on this, will you —

It even makes me feel depressed.


Heaven is high, endless.

The earth thick

    Thick without end.

Living in between

At the mercy of these powers,


    Butting heads

For food & warmth,

Eyeing each other's morsels

Would scheme to kill


        The while.

Why should

A blind child

Wonder about the color of milk?


I saw dogs, by the hundreds

A wild bunch,

                        Scruffy curs,

The reclining ones happy to lie low

The ones up & about are happy too,

Throw a bone in their midst

& all changes

Everyone begins to growl,

Baring their teeth at each other

Alas, not that there were too few bones

But there were so many dogs

How to share it out?


Pity the mortals

Their feeling habit

Eating at every meal

    Never tire

Steamed pork, stir in the garlic paste

Broiled duck

Dip in peppered salt

For a delicate fish broth

Pull out the backbone of a fish

                For tenderness

                Serve the cheek warm

    Its skin on

    The bitterness of other things

    Others can keep

We get on with

What is sweet


Children, I tell you,

Leave the burning house now

Three carts are at the door,

        One to flee the self,

                One to save another,

        & one more for the way.

Come away,

Children, everyone.

Homeless you shall not be

Abiding by your vehicle.

& if perchance carried alive to

                The marketplace

There left to sit empty,


            The big sky

You will learn

The ten directions

Have no ups

Nor downs,

Coming or going,


Or west, neither

Should prevent you.


People ask the way

To Cold Mountain.


Road goes there.

In summer

The ice

Will not shift.

In daylight


Is all one sees

& how did you

Get there?

How did I?

But your heart is hardly

Like mine,

When it is

There is here.


In the Same Light

200 Poems for Our Century

translated by Wong May

The Song Cave, 2022