A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “The Charm of a Maiden Singer”

All the beings meant to die
Early have already come and gone—
Cherry, crabapple, magnolia and lilac—
Only occasional blooms surprising
With unexpected late-night fragrance.

After the first mad rush of fresh spring growth,
Suddenly, the weather turns cold
And a fine, sad rain slants in all the alleyways
Littered with maple seeds,
Fallen wings as impotent as the angels.

Many beings who need not have died
Early have already come and gone—
Fifteen fatal overdoses in one month—
As ambulance lights stain
The darkness red and white.

Behind closed, double-pane windows,
I echo a threnody for all the beings
Come and gone too early,
Sung by sirens and newspaper headlines,
Spring breezes and autopsy reports:

Now you’ve been born into death,
Your name nothing but a sigh,
The grave will be your cradle,
The night wind your lullaby.

(for M.E.)

Depth Charge: The newspapers are reporting that this spring in Montreal the number of fatal drug overdoses has rocketed, 15 in the month of May alone, largely due to street drugs being laced with the powerful pain killer Fentanyl. The Harper Conservatives, as tone deaf to the clear song of evidence as ever, refuse to support Supervised Injection Sites (SIS) where intravenous drug users can inject their drugs in clean, supervised surroundings. While not a panacea, these sites have been proven to reduce the number of overdoses and the transmission of diseases.

Tune: ”The Charm of a Maiden Singer“
Spring Thoughts
by Li Qingzhao

Slanting wind, misty rain
Once more assail a courtyard bleak and desolate.
The double-gate needs must be shut.
Favorite flowers, darling willows:
Cold Food Day approaches,
With unsettling weather in all its changing moods.
I finish a poem with difficult rhymes,
Sober up from the fumes of strong wine
With a queer sense of listlessness .
My multitude of thoughts—who will convey them
Now the wild geese have all winged out of sight?

Spring chill fills the upper rooms,
For days on end the curtains are drawn on all sides:
I am too languid to lean over the balustrade.
The incense burnt out, my quilts feel cold
As I wake from a new dream.
No dawdling in bed for one who comes to grief
When Spring is calling with all its diversions:
Young parasol-trees sprout new leaves;
Clear dew trickles in the first flush of dawn.
Now the sun is riding high, the fog withdraws.
Still I’d rather wait,
To see whether the day will really be fine.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.



Lǐ Qīngzhào niànnújiāo
Xiāotiáo tíngyuàn, yòu xié fēng xì yǔ, zhòng mén xū bì. Chǒng liǔjiāohuā hánshí jìn, zhǒngzhǒng nǎorén tiānqì. Xiǎn yùn shī chéng, fú tóu jiǔ xǐng, bié shì xián zīwèi. Zhēng hóng guò jǐn, wàn qiān xīnshì nán jì.
Lóu shàng jǐ rì chūnhán, lián chuí sìmiàn, yù lángān yōng yǐ . Bèi lěng xiāng xiāo xīn mèng jué, bùxǔ chóu rén bù qǐ. Qīng lù chén liú, xīn tóng chū yǐn , duōshǎo yóu chūnyì. Rì gāo yān liǎn , gèng kàn jīnrì qíng wèi

Li Qingzhao Remembrance/slave(girl)/lovable
Dejected/condition/court/yard, once again/slanting/wind/fine/rain, double/gate/must/close. Beloved/willow/tender/flowers/cold/food/near, type/type/annoy/people/weather. Dangerous/rhyme/verse/complete, hold in hand/head/wine/sober-up, must not/is/idle/taste/feeling. Journey/goose/pass by/ended. Ten-thousand/one-thousand/heart/affairs/difficult/to convey.
Building/upper/several/days/spring/cold, curtain/lowered/four/directions, jade/bannister/lethargic/lean on. Quilt/cold/incense/spent/new/dream/awaken, not/must/anxious/person/not/rise-up. Pure/dew/dawn/flow/willow, new/Tung tree/begin/lengthen, many/few/spring/thoughts. Sun/high/mist/hold back, still/look/now/day/fine/not yet.

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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