Original Poetry
PoetryEmail This Article Print This Article

After Liu Dan

Elliot Koubis


After Liu Dan


Chinese scholar’s stones, weathered by the elements into artful shapes, are

valued for their perforations, wrinkling, thinness, and openness. Asymmetry,

resonance, texture, and surface are considered pleasing traits, as is a

resemblance to figures and natural forms.


We have yet to start upon the peak. Within the stone lies the first step,

suspended, in which I can distinguish, just about, the veins and crags of

the slope. Yet my mind oscillates violently between seeing the stone in

the mountain or the mountain in the stone. It refuses to settle, for as

singular as the stone may seem, its sinews surge with waves of steps and

seas. Curls and licks of storms eddy within the rock, shooting up and

around its form, inviting our first footfall.


You, having spent your life intimately knowing the range, taught me

that mountains also have an inside. They too make sounds, resonate

with the steps that patter upon their surfaces, whistle the whittling

whirr of water, echoing the world outside within them. They too seem

to dream.


And so, in the same way, with these stones, nature not only reflects

itself in miniature, but in doing so narrates its own stories of how the

world has happened upon it: how the land has chanced upon itself.

For the natural world, like our own, is a world in constant friction with

itself. But, as the inside rubs up against the outside, the self, like a

mountain range, like the hills upon our callused fingers, is slowly

sparked into existence.


We sounded our first steps upon the stone.



Elliot Koubis is reading for an MSt in Modern Greek at Worcester College. His debut poetry collection, ‘Echoing’, was published by Ampersand Publishing in 2017. He has also translated ‘The Stories and Adventures of the Baron d’Ormesan’ with Iris Colomb, and ‘Bombardement’ by Henri Barbusse, which are also published by Ampersand.