Ancestral Sonnet and Remembrance Tankas: Responses to Li Qingzhao’s “Little Overlapping Hills”

Ancestral Sonnet

Now the ginkgoes are golden,
The ash trees completely bare,
The locust half-green, half-brown,
And soon the Day of the Dead’s
Slow parade of our deceased
Will limp like our damaged dreams
Through the darkened, leaf-strewn streets,
Lines stretching all the way back
To a random single-celled
Organism’s fatal wish
To exist and so begin
The terrible rhythms of
Recombining DNA,
Reproduction and decay.

Remembrance Tankas

After the rain—remembrance
After the rain—the perfume
Of endless decay
The wan moon pulls the dark tides
Onto sleeping shores

A restless sleeper
Tossing—turning—clutching sheets
To fend off the cold
Of another dream-plagued night
The bed both too big—too small

Revised AGG20150910

Depth charge: This Li Qingzhao poem sparked two poems, only tangentially ralated, but somehow forming a unified response. The first is a fractured sonnet and the second mirrored tankas. Both responses convert the season of the original, spring, into an autumn setting.

Tune: “Little Overlapping Hills”
by Li Qingzhao

Spring returns to my lonely chamber,
Once more spring grass is lush and green.
Some red plum blossoms are open,
Others have yet to bloom.
I grind tea bricks into fine jade powder
In a pot carved with azure clouds,
Still under the spell of the morning’s dream,
Till all of a sudden I am woken
By a jug of spring.

Flower shadows press at the double gate,
Pale moonlight silvers the translucent curtains.
A beautiful evening!
Three times in two years
We’ve missed the spring.
Come back without further ado
And let’s enjoy our fill of this spring!

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

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



Xiǎo chóngshān Lǐ Qīngzhào
Xiǎo chóngshān  chūn dào cháng mén chūncǎo qīng. Jiāng méi xiē zi pò, wèi kāi yún. Bì yún lóng niǎn yùchéng chén. Liú xiǎo mèng, jīng pò yī ōu chūn.  Huāyǐng yā chóng mén. Shū lián pù dàn yuè, hǎo huánghūn. Èr nián sān dù fù dōng jūn, guīlái yě, zhuóyìguò jīnchūn.

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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