SEARCHING FOR THE LAST IMMORTALS

Randolph Walker

One or two immortals still lingered in the western mountains
surviving on wind and dew.
Or so it was said.
No one has looked for them for years.

The Jade Temple Immortal and the Western Ancestor--
I sought them out
studying the Clifftop Manual
and the records of the Purple Dynasty.

I left alone for the west,
unblessed by the long-gone monks
of shuttered monasteries where dust films the mirrors
and wind echoes across leaf-blown courtyards

When I was younger I might have seen
dragon-brocaded silk trailing from behind a tamarind tree
or felt the cool air at dusk
when immortals bathe their faces in theTranscendent Elixir.

I might have met a solitary old woodchopper
Who would lead me to his rough-hewn cabin
And revive me with a sip
from the Spring of a Thousand Blossoms

Beyond midnight I might have heard strange music
and laughter from Seven Ridges Mountain
And glimpsed birdlike figures dancing
At Immortal Summoning Observatory.

And three days later, when I'd return to my office,
to sign papers, meet supplicants, and cater to officials--
A stranger would say, "What papers are you talking about?
And that official? Died seventy years ago."

But only the young may glimpse the Western Ancestor
and hear the laughter of the Jade Temple Immortal.
I am left with books and dust,
and a cup of warm tea at midnight.