Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Butterflies Lingering Over Flowers”

Warm rains and clear winds
Have broken winter’s hold,
The primordial flourish of magnolia
Pulses within its bud,
Feel it beating—
The blood-hungry heart of spring.

And who is there to share with me
The fluid poetry of flesh and life?

The darkening skies light up
A kaleidoscope of screens,
This other city of men
Who live a shared dream
Of sex with strangers
In the dead of night.

Wherever, whenever
Bloom the ancient flowers bright.


Tune: “Butterflies Lingering Over Flowers”
by Li Qingzhao

Sunny breezes, warm drizzle
Take the chill off the air
As the thaw sets in.
Willow sprouts like a girl’s eyes,
Plum blossoms rosy-cheeked:
Already one feels the heart of spring stirring .
Oh the delights of wine and poetry–
Who will now share them with me?
The gold-petalled hair-piece feels heavy,
And tears melt my rouge.

I try on my lined dress sewn with gold thread,
Recline idly on a pile of pillows,
Crushing my phoenix hairpin.
No pleasant dream comes to one
Alone in deep sorrow.
At dead of night I sit up,
Trimming the tell-tale wick
Of my bedside lamp.*

*The wick of the candle burnt into a flowery shape was thought to be a good omen, here presumably of the lover’s return.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.


Qīngzhào Dié liàn huā
Nuǎn yǔ qíng fēng chū pò dòng, liǔ yǎn méi sāi, yǐ jué chūn xīndòng.Jiǔyì shī qíng shuí yǔgòng? Lèi róng cán fěn huā diàn zhòng. Zhà shì jiā shān jīn lǚ fèng, shān zhěn xié qī, zhěn sǔn chāi tóu fèng. Dú bào nóng chóu wú hǎo mèng, yèlán yóu jiǎn dēnghuā nòng.

Butterfly/to long for/flower
Warm/rain/clear/wind/begin/to break/freeze, willow/eye/plum/cheek, already/feel/spring/heart/move. Wine/thought/poetry/feeling/who/with/share? Tears/melt/ruin/rouge/flower/inlay/heavy.
Suddenly/try/to close together /garment/gold/threw/stitch, mountainous/pillow/recline/lean on, pillow/damage/hairpin/head/phoenix. Alone/embrace/concentrated/worry/without/good/dream/late at night/still/cut with scissors/lamp/flower/to toy with.

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…”


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