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

Each kiss a Song of Farewell
Sung a thousand times over.

My mind and body so deranged
By our final parting,
I’d almost forgotten
About the brown sweater
You wore on the day
Of our first meeting

And that

The globe is round,
And we are half-a-world apart,
So a single step
By either of us
In any direction
Would bring both of us
Closer together.

Written to commemorate my parting from MKL and leaving China, July 10, 2008.




Qīngzhào·Dié liàn huā·wǎn zhǐ chāng lè guǎn jì zǐmèi
Lèi shī luō yī zhīfěn mǎn, sì dié yáng guān, chàng dào qiān qiān biàn. Réndào shān cháng shān yòu duàn, xiāoxiāo wēi yǔ wén gū guǎn.
Xībié shāng lí fāngcùn luàn, wàngle lín xíng, jiǔ zhǎn shēn hé qiǎn. Hǎo bǎ yīn shū píngguò yàn, dōng lái bù shì pénglái yuǎn.

Butterfly/to long for/flower. Evening/stop/Changle/hostel/send to/sisters
Tears/wet/gather/robe/make-up/inundate, four/repetition/Yangguan Pass, Sing/until/one-thousand/one-thousand/times. Person/path/mountain/long/mountain/also/cuts off, Dreary/dreary/fine/rain/scents/hostel.
Pity/parting/injures/leaving/heart-mind/disordered, Forget/modal particle signifying completion/moment of departure, wine/glass/deep/and/shallow, good to/the/news/letter/rely on/passing/geese, Donglai/not/as/Penglai/far.

Tune: ” B u t t e r f l i e s Lingering Over Flowers” 1
A Farewell Letter to My S i s t e r s. Written at an Inn i n Chang Luo.
by Li Qingzhao

Tears stain my silk robe with rouge and powder
As the Song of Farewell is repeated
Thousands of times over.
I ‘m told the going’s hard
Over these endless ranges of mountains
That block the view.
In my lonely lodge I listen all night
To the patter of sizzling rain.

Regrets at parting drive my mind to distraction:
I forget how full I filled your cups
As I bade you adieu.
Be sure to send word
When the wild geese pass.
After all Dong Lai is not so far off as Peng Lai. 2

1)      Written when the poet was en route to Dong Lai, i.e. Laizhou in present-day Shandong Province, where her husband had just taken a new official post. She must then be around 38 years of age.

2)      According to legend, Peng Lai was an island in the Eastern Sea, where the Immortals dwelled.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

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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