Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Southern Song”

Up above turns a silver river of stars,
Down below flickers a galaxy of screens—
on and off and on and on.

My pillow has grown cold
With sweat from a forgotten dream.

I rise to turn off the computer
Left running while I slept,
Look out the window, wonder
How goes your night?

Shadows stitch together
Ragged images
Of your blue-green eyes
(Are they open now?)
And golden patches of your chest hair
(Have they gone as grey as mine?).

The same less-than-perfect moon
Sets as the same sun rises
(Only slightly out-of-step)
On the same memories
Of your nakedness entwined
In twisted bed sheets

—only feelings change.


Depth Charge:  In the original Li Qingzhao poem, the phrase “夜何其/What about the Night?” is a reference to a poem in the foundational book of Chinese poetry, The Book of Odes, also known as The Classic of Poetry. I have written a separate response to that poem.

Tune: “A Southern Song”
In Memoriam
by Li Qingzhao

In Heaven the Milky Way turns,
On Earth all curtains hang low.
A chill steals on to my pillow-mat
Damp with tears.
I sit up to unloosen my silk robe,
And idly ask myself:
“What hour of night is it?”

The kingfisher-embroidered lotus-pods seem small,
The gold-stitched lotus leaves are sparse.
The same weather, the same clothes,
As of old.
Only my feelings are quite other
Than those of old times.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.



Li Qīngzhào Nán gēzi
Tiānshàng xīnghé zhuǎn, rénjiān liánmù chuí. Liáng shēng zhěndiàn lèihén zī. Qǐ jiè luó yī liáo wèn yè héqí.
Cuì tiē liánpeng xiǎo, jīn xiāo ǒu yè xī. Jiùshí tiānqì jiùshí yī. Zhǐyǒu qínghuái bù sì jiù jiā shí.

Li Qingzhao South /song
Sky/on/star/river turn,human/space/curtain-screen/let down。Cold/to produce/pillow/mat/tear/traces/to cause 。Get up/untie/gauze/robe/chat/ask/night/how/it。
Blue-green/to stick to/lotus/sead head/small,Gold/to fuse/lotus root/leaf/sparse。Old/time/weather/old/time/clothes。Only/have/mood/feeling/not/like/old/home/time。

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”

To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”


One thought on “Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Southern Song”

  1. Pingback: Response to “What of the Night?” from The Book of Odes | tankawanka

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