If a skyscraper

If a skyscraper
Grew legs and followed you home
You’d be scared shitless
I understand the chipmunk
Who daily flees my approach

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To Reach the Palace of Heaven: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “On the Trail of Sweet Incense”

They said we could sail to the east,
For ten long days and ten dark nights,
Reach that shining, singular spot,
Where Milky Way and ocean meet,
Ride a silver river of stars,
Up endless layers of clouds like stairs,
And reach the Palace of Heaven—
Its lunar floors shimmering bright—
And dance our eternity there.
At one time they swore this was true.
Perhaps it was, but beyond doubt
Is that of all those who set out
To reach the Palace of Heaven,
None was seen or heard from again.

AGG20140927

Tune: “On the Trail of Sweet Incense”
The Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month①
by Li Qingzhao

A deep gloom broods over Heaven and Earth.
In the rank grass crickets are chirping,
And parasol-trees, startled, let fall their leaves.
Clouds for stairs, the moon for floor,
To Heaven the way is blocked by a thousand barriers ,
And floating rafts ply to and fro
To no avail. ②

On this night magpies form a star bridge to span the Milky Way,
Where Cowboy and Weaving Maid keep their yearly tryst .
Endless must be their murmurings of love and regret
After long separation!
But whence these sudden changes
Of sun and rain and wind
In the midst of their love-making?
Can it be that they are taking leave of each other
At this very moment?

①A beautiful folk-tale dating back many centuries says that the Cowboy and the Weaving Maid (the two stars Altair and Vega on opposites ides of the Milky Way) loved each other so much that they incurred the displeasure of the Emperor of Heaven for neglect of duty and were permitted to meet only once a year on the night of the Seventh Day of the Seventh Month, crossing the Milky Way by a bridge formed by magpies.

②According to the Book of Natural Science (博物志/bó​wùzhì), written by Zhang Hua/张华 (232–300) of the Jin Dynasty, in ancient times the Milky Way was connected with the sea, and people setting out from the sea on a huge wooden raft, would reach Heaven after sailing ten-odd days. There they could catch sight of the Weaving Maid busy at her loom in the palace and the Cowboy herding cattle on the bank of the Heavenly River.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

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

行香子七夕李清照
草际鸣蛩,惊落梧桐,正人间、天上愁浓。云阶月地,关锁千重。纵浮槎来,浮槎去,不相逢。
星桥鹊驾,经年才见,想离情、别恨难穷。牵牛织女,莫是离中。甚霎儿晴,霎儿雨,霎儿风。

行香子七夕李清照
草際鳴蛩,驚落梧桐,正人間、天上愁濃。雲階月地,關鎖千重。縱浮槎來,浮槎去,不相逢。
星橋鵲駕,經年才見,想離情、別恨難窮。牽牛織女,莫是離中。甚霎兒晴,霎兒雨,霎兒風。

xíng xiāngzǐ qīxì Lǐ Qīngzhào
Cǎo jì míng qióng, jīng luò wútóng, zhèng rénjiān, tiānshàng chóu nóng. Yún jiē yuè de, guān suǒ qiān zhòng. Zòng fú chá lái, fú chá qù, bù xiāngféng.
Xīng qiáo què jià, jīng nián cái jiàn, xiǎng líqíng, bié hèn nán qióng. Qiān niú zhīnǚ, mò shì lí zhōng. Shén shà er qíng, shà er yǔ, shà er fēng.

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Somewhere in Lebanon: A Response to “Peaches of the Two-Coloured Palace”

Somewhere in Lebanon
There’s a patch of fresh-turned earth,
Everywhere the last flowers of summer
Are being blown away by the night wind.

So many friends who’d have made
Such excellent old men have died too young,
Each new friend multiplies our pleasures,
This year past, a stream of laments.

Perhaps it will fall to me
To be the old man I often see
In a cream suit, brown cardigan and olive tie,
Singular in the early autumn sun,
Moving shakily through the park—
Head gradually emptied of memory,
Each breath a slow fade.

AGG20140821
(for ZG)

Al Ziz /  الزيز

What Possible Pleasures

Peaches of the Two-Coloured Palace
Attributed to Li Qingzhao

Soft, fragrant buds of carved jade dot its stem,
The 10,000 Tree Garden is desolate in the first month of the year.
A single branch breaches the snow with blooms,
Who can be entrusted with the letter that waits south of the river?

The year before last we shared the beauty of Climb-High Pavilion,
This past year a lament, all our joys fled like yesterday.
I listen to the carefree line of song that says:
In a place where many flowers bloom, expect pleasure.

Translated by AGG.

Depth Charge: I can find no other source that attributes this poem to Li Qingzhao, and it is not include in Jiaosheng Wang’s The Complete Ci-Poems of Li Qingzhao: A New English Translation. However, it is included in the book of Li Qingzhao’s poetry that I purchased in China and that is basis of this project; therefore, I have attempted my own translation on which to base the response.

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

二色宫桃 李清照
镂玉香苞酥点萼,正万木园林萧索。唯有一枝雪里开,江南有信凭谁托。前年记尝登高阁,叹年来、旧欢如昨。听取乐天一句云:花开处且须行乐。

二色宮桃 李清照
鏤玉香苞酥點萼,正萬木園林蕭索。唯有一枝雪裡開,江南有信憑誰托。前年記嘗登高閣,嘆年來、舊歡如昨。聽取樂天一句云:花開處且須行樂。

èr sè gōng táo Lǐ Qīngzhào
lòu yù xiāng bāo sū diǎn è 。
zhèng wàn mù , yuán lín xiāo suǒ 。
wéi yǒu yī zhī xuě lǐ kāi , jiāng nán yǒu xìn píng shuí tuō 。
qián nián jì shǎng dēng gāo gé 。
tàn nián lái , jiù huān rú zuó 。
tīng qǔ lè tiān yī jù yún : huā kāi chǔ , qiě xū xíng lè 。

Two/colour/palace/peach/Li/Qingzhao
engrave/jade/fragrant/bud/soft/dot/stem, first month/10,000/wood/bleak/melancholy. Only/have/one/branch/snow/in/bloom, River/South/have/letter/rely on/who/give. Before/year/remember/try already/climb/high/chamber. Lament/year/past, Old/joy/like/yesterday. Listen/to/care-free/one/line/says: Flower/bloom/place/moreover/expect/pleasure.

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Of the Cosmos on Our Skin

Our every breath
Borrowed from the dying stars,
Our blood the salt seas,
Tonight we will feel the ghosts
Of the cosmos on our skin.

AGG20140917

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Supermoon on a Skateboard

When you are a child
The world’s gravity is fun
Swings—slides—monkey bars
Every challenge is a joy
When you fall—you get back up

No sense of balance
It’s Mid-Autumn Festival
There’s a Supermoon
So conditions are ideal
For skateboarding—and falling

Even the moon wants
To distance itself from us
Each year falls away
Three point eight centimetres
As it flees our gravity

AGG20140909

 

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…”

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Al Ziz / الزيز

What is the limit?
I am sure nobody knows.
But I assure you,
There’s room in our crowded hearts
For your gently fading ghost.

Last time I saw you:
You were in the Pride Parade,
And as you passed by,
I rushed in from the sidelines,
Surprising you with a hug.

I see you smiling,
I hear you laughing, I see
You walking away.
All of this really happened.
And will not happen again.

So rest with us now,
Memory’s a tricky thing,
And I would hold you
In my mind as in my arms,
Firmly, if for a short time.

AGG20140903
(In Memoriam Ziad Ghaoui)

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014 Photo by MIchael Leon

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Your laugh is the same

Your laugh is the same
Lacing the conversation
With an easy flow
As if it had never paused
What’s thirty years between friends?

Our separate lives
Stretched across three continents
Anchored to this shared
City and time we first learned
To love men—learned the hard way

The bare-chested boys
In Parc Lafontaine—the cops
Dressed in camouflage
Desires and fears do not change—
Not easily—not at all

At the metro door
We warmly embrace and swear
That we’ll meet again
Soon—but the last time goodbye
Waited decades for hello

AGG20140901
(for Jose Arroyo)

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Then you sang a song

Then you sang a song
Of such abiding beauty
That no one noticed
And the trains did not depart
From their regular schedules

AGG20140831
(after seeing Citizens Band by Angelica Mesiti featuring Loïs Géraldine Zongo, Mohammed Lamourie, Bukhchuluun (Bukhu) Ganburged and Asim Gorashi at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal)

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…”

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