XIII. Return To Suzhou: Master Of The Nets

By Jacqueline Osherow

It was meant to conjure the life of a fisherman—
solitude simplicity and peace—
hence the name—Master of the Nets Garden.

Not the real life, of course, but what a nobleman
(who else would bankroll such quiet grace?)
imagines when he thinks life of a fisherman:

the sea in miniature, harnessed, halcyon
abundant fish (giant koi, not bass).
It’s a stand-in wilderness, a Chinese garden—

each tree a forest, each rock a mountain—
for those obliged to keep close to the house.
There are even breaking waves: our would-be fisherman

could watch, from covered walkways, a procession
of ripples launched across his fishpond’s surface
by pelting raindrops; his master gardener

dispensed perfection even in the rain.
I visit in a downpour—paradise—
while, out on open sea, a master fisherman,
expanse itself his garden, plies his nets.

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