A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Nostalgia for Fluting on the Phoenix Terrace”

The birds
The little birds
The little brown birds
The little brown birds
Sing wordless songs at dawn

The tree
The locust tree
The flowering locust tree
The flowering locust tree
Caressed all day by honeybees

The Moon
The Moon and Mars
The Moon and Mars—white and red
The Moon and Mars—white and red
Waltz through the midnight skies

Each day I rise
Each day I make the bed
Each day I listen to wordless songs
Watch the blossoms get caressed
Try to sleep with the Moon and Mars
Together waltzing through midnight stars

And I think at least the wind will blow
And the world will spin all of this away
Like you who would not stay
You who refuses to be seen
Not even in my dreams
Because if you could disappear
If you will not be here
Why should they persist?

The birds
The little birds
The little brown birds

AGG20140610

Depth charge: Li Qingzhao’s poem about separation from a loved one may have been the original impetus for this poem, but in the end it was a line from a Carter Family song Darling Little Joe: “Thelittle brown birds around the door,” that provided the key. I also found inspiration in Skeeter Davis’ The End of the World and, finally, by commenting on the locust tree outside my wind and being challenged by a friend to turn it into a poem.

Tune: “Nostalgia for Fluting on the Phoenix Terrace”
Separation
by Li Qingzhao

No more incense smoke from the gilt lion burner;
Quilts in the bed: a riot of crimson waves.
A night of unrestful sleep,
And I am in no mood to comb my hair,
Heedless that my jewelled toilet-set is covered with dust,
And the morning sun peeping above the curtain-hooks.
A jumble of parting thoughts,
Yet I hesitate on the verge of utterance
For fear of bitterness.
Of late I’ve been growing thin,
Not that I over-drink myself,
Nor from lament for the autumn.

Finished! Finished!
Ten thousand Songs of Farewell① failed to detain
The loved one-now gone f a r away
To Wu Ling Peach Blossom Springs. ②
Here in this mist-locked chamber
I sit brooding t h e livelong day,
With only the limpid stream showing me sympathy
As it glides quietly past the terrace.
A fresh wave of regret floods my heart
Where I gaze.

①  An allusion to a poem written by Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to see off a friend, which in later generations came to be widely used as a song of farewell, with its last line
“West of Yang Guan you’ll have no more old friends ” sung as a refrain. Yang Guan was an ancient pass in present-day Gansu province.

②  The poet compares her husband to the fisherman who sojourned in the Land of Peach Blossom Springs in Tao Yuanming’s Utopian essay.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

李清照凤凰台上忆吹箫
香冷金猊,被翻红浪,起来慵自梳头。任宝奁尘满,日上帘钩。生怕离怀别苦,多少事、欲说还休。新来瘦,非干病酒,不是悲秋。
休休,这回去也,千万遍《阳关》,也则难留。念武陵人远,烟锁秦楼。唯有楼前流水,应念我、终日凝眸。凝眸处,从今更添,一段新愁。

李清照鳳凰台上憶吹簫
香冷金猊,被翻紅浪,起來慵自梳頭。任寶奩塵滿,日上簾鉤。生怕離懷別苦,多少事、欲說還休。新來瘦,非干病酒,不是悲秋。
休休,這回去也,千萬遍《陽關》,也則難留。念武陵人遠,煙鎖秦樓。唯有樓前流水,應念我、終日凝眸。凝眸處,從今更添,一段新愁。

Lǐqīngzhào fènghuáng tái shàng yì chuī xiāo
Xiāng lěng jīn ní, bèi fān hóng làng, qǐlái yōng zì shūtóu. Rènbǎolián chén mǎn, rì shàng lián gōu. Shēngpà lí huái bié kǔ, duōshǎo shì, yù shuō hái xiū. Xīn lái shòu, fēi gàn bìng jiǔ, bùshì bēi qiū.
Xiū xiū, zhè huíqù yě, qiān wàn biàn “yáng guān”, yě zé nán liú . Niàn wǔlíng rén yuǎn, yān suǒ qín lóu. Wéiyǒu lóu qián liúshuǐ, yīng niàn wǒ, zhōngrì níngmóu. Níngmóu chù, cóng jīn gèng tiān, yīduàn xīn chóu.

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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