In August 2014 when I was again staying with dear friend and fellow improviser, eighty year-old pianist Nancy Bennet. We decided to do another free improv session in her wharf studio in Cutler, Maine. We used this poem to improvise on. I was encouraging her to continue to play even as she has been dealing with a debilitating and tragic genetic condition that is affecting her fingers. This is the beauty of free improvisation, you come to it as you are. This poem is by an anonymous Chinese poet from the 1st century B.C. We loved it so much we did three free improvisations on it. The last recording was the best. Were able to finally capture its beautiful and sad poignancy. It comes from a small book that I picked off Nancy’s bookshelf randomly, called The Moment of Wonder: A Collection of Chinese and Japanese Poetry – edited by Richard Lewis (The Dial Press)
The Eastern Gate:I went out at the Eastern Gate:I never thought to return.But I came back to the gate with my heart full of sorrow.There was not a peck of rice in the bin:There was not a coat hanging on the pegs.So I took my sword and went towards the gate.My wife and child clutched at my coat and wept:“Some people want to be rich and grand:I only want to share my porridge with you.Above, we have the blue waves of the sky:Below, the yellow face of this little child.”“Dear wife, I cannot stay.Soon it will be too late.When one is growing oldOne cannot put things off.” -Anon. (1st. c B.C.)
P.S. We made our friend George Murray, the recording engineer, cry.