Sorry to wake you—
So new to the grave—with my
Clawing at the fresh-turned earth
And chrysanthemums wilting
Should I let you settle in
Let silent worms gnaw awhile
Before I begin
With my incessant chanting
Demanding a sign
A danse macabre
Some late-night chain rattling
So as not to face alone
The fact you’re as good as gone
Now the leaves are red and gold
Dark clouds roil the autumn sky
We’re in for a spell
Of wind—rain—then peaceful snows
Best wait until spring
“On the Trail of Sweet Incense”
by Li Qingzhao
Golden chrysanthemums just in bloom
Tell of the approach of the Double Ninth Festival.
A bounteous gift from Heaven these autumnal tints,
Which however bring sadness in their train
As circumstances change.
I try on my thin dress, taste new-brewed wine,
Aware that I am in for
A spell of wind,
A spell of rain,
A spell of cold.
Yellowing twilight fills my rooms
With gloom and anxiety.
Memories of heart-rending sorrow
Overwhelm me as I sober up from wine.
An unending night,
A full moon flooding an empty bed.
In my ears the dull thud
Of mallets on the washing-blocks,
The feeble chirp of crickets,
The monotonous dripping of the clepsydra.
Depth Charge: Although no indication is given in the collection I am using for the basis of this series responses, this poem is widely believed not to be one of Li Qingzhao’s, as it does not appear in any collection of her poetry until the Ming Dynasty, more than four hundred years after her death.
Xíng xiāngzǐ Lǐ Qīngzhào
Tiān yǔ qiūguāng, zhuǎn zhuǎn qíng shāng . Tàn jīn yīng, zhī jìn chóngyáng . Báoyī chūshì, lǜ yǐ chū cháng . Jiàn yī fān fēng, yī fān yǔ, yī fān liáng.
Huánghūn yuànluò, xī xī huánghuáng . Jiǔ xǐng shí, wǎngshì chóucháng. Nà kān yǒng yè, míngyuè kōng chuáng . Wén zhēn shēng dǎo, qióng shēng xì, lòu shēng zhǎng.
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