Geometries of Time (Farewell, 2014)

Some say that it’s an arrow straight flying,
Others a circle, a spiral spinning,
But I do not know which geometry
Could do the trick of squaring the circle
Of this past year, could connect its patterns:
An evening of pleasant sensations,
Walking through a world muted by soft snows
To fall deeply asleep in his warm arms,
Circuses, sex, dancing, salt-water swims,
Ferguson, the disappearance of Doug
And Ziad, perhaps a mad multiverse,
Invisible to our quickly fading
Eyes that scan such a limited spectrum,
Knowing but never seeing what’s to come.

AGG20141229

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Home for the Haunted Holiday

It is Christmas, not Halloween,
That’s the most haunted holiday,
The tree’s glittering ornaments,
A constellation of gravestones
Marking times, places and people
Long since gone, or freshly buried,
Every gathering attended
By hosts of invisible guests
Whispering their stories and songs,
Meals visited by the spirits
Of generations of women
Returning through their recipes
In flavours of ginger, cocoa,
Molasses, cinnamon and cloves.

AGG20141225

The Last Garbage Day (Before Xmas)

It is the last garbage day
Before Christmas,
The alleyways are littered
With trash pickers,
People with layer upon layer
Of dirty clothes,
Combing the cans and the bins
For bottles, tins;
But today’s pickings are spare,
They’re aware and
Wait for the days we will share
From our orgies
Of excess—Merry Christmas!

AGG20141223

As for what remains: A Response to “Spring at Wuling” by Li Qingzhao

As for what remains—
An expanding universe
Doesn’t count for much—
It’s vastness still can’t contain
Our happiness grief and pain

AGG20141218

Tune: “Spring at Wu Ling” ①
by Li Qingzhao

The wind has subsided,
Faded all the flowers:
In the muddy earth
A lingering fragrance of petals.
Dusk falls. I’m in no mood to comb my hair.
Things remain, but all is lost.
Now he’s no more.
Tears choke my words.

I hear “Twin Brooks'” is still sweet②
With the breath of spring.
How I’d, too, love to go for a row,
On a light skiff.
I only fear at “Twin Brooks” my grasshopper of a boat
Wouldn’t be able to bear
Such a load of grief.

① Written in 1135, six years after her husband’s death, when Li Qingzhao was living at Jinhua in today’s Zhejiang Province as a temporary refuge from the Jin invasion.
②A stream in the southeast of Jinhua often visited by poets in Tang and Song times as a scenic resort.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

武陵春·李清照
风住尘香花已尽,日晚倦梳头。物是人非事事休,欲语泪先流。
闻说双溪春尚好,也拟泛轻舟。只恐双溪舴艋舟,载不动许多愁。

Wǔlíng chūn·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Fēng zhù chén xiānghuā yǐ jìn, rì wǎn juàn shūtóu. Wù shì rén fēi shì shì xiū, yù yǔ lèi xiān liú.
Wén shuō shuāng xī chūn shànghǎo, yě nǐ fàn qīngzhōu. Zhǐ kǒng shuāng xī zé měng zhōu, zài bù dòng xǔduō chóu

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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The Disappearance: A Response to “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook” by Li Qingzhao

One day the layered
Layer upon layer
Billion upon billion
Golden-tentacled galaxies
Will have fled
So far so fast
The shifted light they share
Will become so distended so wide
That these waves will no longer fit
Within the known universe
And at this point in time
They will simply
Disappear
Dead? Perhaps
What way will there be to know?
Dead to us? Most definitely

And I have already seen this happen

That June evening you walked down
The long lane lined with lilacs
And I watched and watched
And watched until only the vulgar
Perfumed panicles remained
To trouble my purple dreams
Are you dead?
How am I to know?
Are you dead to me?
I wish
But each spring the purple blooms
Troubling my dreams
Of an empty lane beneath the fleeing stars
Return you to me

Silent and receding

AGG20141216

Depth Charge: Thanks to Lawrence M. Krauss for explaining how, in two trillion years, anything with eyes left to see, will be able to see only the stars in their own galaxy. Watch the entire lecture, or jump forward to about 59 minutes to hear a truncated explanation of the end of the universe.

Tune: “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”
To the Cassia Flower
by Li Qingzhao

Your petals-twisted into ten thousand flecks of soft gold;
Your leaves-layer upon layer of carved emerald jade.
Graceful in -bearing,
Noble and bright in spirit,
You are worthy to compare
With the ancient scholar Yan Fu. ①

Beside you how vulgar the plum,
For all its profusion of petals;
How coarse the lilac,
With its innumerable knotty branches.
But your all too heady perfume,
O you heartless flower!
Wakes my sorrowful dream
Of a thousand li away.

① The style name of Yue Guang of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), s scholar renowned for his erudition, wisdom and eloquence as well as his upright character as an official.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

摊破浣溪沙 李清照
揉破黄金万点轻,剪成碧玉叶层层。风度精神如彦辅,大鲜明。
梅蕊重重何俗甚,丁香千结苦麄生。熏透愁人千里梦,却无情。

Tān pò huànxīshā Lǐqīngzhào
Róu pò huángjīn wàn diǎn qīng , jiǎn chéng bìyù yè céng céng . Fēngdù jīngshén rú yàn fǔ , dà xiānmíng . Méi ruǐ chóngchóng hé sú shén , dīngxiāng qiān jié kǔ cū shēng . Xūn tòu chóu rén qiānlǐ mèng , què wúqíng.

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Our love like the stars

Our love like the stars
Will die—our eyes like the skies
Go dark—our bodies
Like everything—interludes
Between the forever dust

AGG20121214

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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Peace on Earth: A Response to “Happiness Approaches” by Li Qingzhao

Happiness always
Close being buried beneath
Piles of petal white
Memories suffocating
Under drifting shifting cold

Great uncles good friends
Ex-lovers have all been dug
Fresh graves this past year
Places for the returning
Cold mercy of the soft snows

To accumulate
Necessary amnesia
Each tiny unique
Erasure on erasure
Achieving monochrome peace

AGG20141212

Tune: “Happiness Approaches”
by Li Qingzhao

The wind has subsided,
Outside the curtains thick lie fallen petals:
A profusion of white and red.
The crab-apple blooms and fades:
A timely reminder
To lament the spring.

Drinking and singing done,
Cups of jasper empty.
The blue oil lamp flares and dims.
I fall into a trance.
Melancholy memories are unbearable—
Unbearable even without the call of a solitary cuckoo.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

好事近李清照
风定落花深,帘外拥红堆雪。长记海棠开后,正伤春时节。
酒阑歌罢玉尊空,青缸暗明灭。魂梦不堪幽怨,更一声啼鴂。

Hǎoshì jìn lǐqīngzhào
fēng dìng luòhuā shēn, lián wài yōng hóng duī xuě. Zhǎng jì hǎitáng kāi hòu, zhèng shāng chūn shíjié.
Jiǔ lán gē bà yù zūn kōng, qīng gāng àn míngmiè. Hún mèng bùkān yōuyuàn, gèng yīshēng tí jué.

 

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Roses Daring Bloom (from Whitman to Genet): A Response to “A Galaxy of Beauties: White Chrysanthemums” by Li Qingzhao

Lilacs by the door
In spring return the fragrant
Mortal reminders
Of Whitman’s comrades of love
In passionate purples doomed

Dark in Reading Gaol
Green carnations for Oscar
Chant for the disgraced
A fatal crisis of love
As dead men do dance on air

Alexandrian
Heart buried–not dead–a seed
Bloody with pleasure’s
Uncombed hair–tanned limbs–naked
In lost cities of desire

The full moon lacquers
Unknown Andalusian
Oleanders white
While somewhere Lorca’s corpse sings
For Jack’s cocksucker séance

Langston–3 A.M.
Harlem café with fairies
Prostitutes police
Strange fruit in magnolia nights
Sailors swallowed by the sea

Genet traced their flesh
On stolen scraps of prison
Paper–murderers
Engraved into red petals
Of spittled love–bloody cum

Roses daring bloom
On trellises of warm flesh
They and I have known
The bold kisses of strangers
Oblivious to the moon

AGG20141208

Depth Charge: The original Li Qingzhao peom, below, is the longest in the collection and is dense with historical and literary allusion. My response was a long time coming and is equally dense with reference to the great gay poets and writers: Walt Whitman, AE Housman, Oscar Wilde, CP Cavafy, Federico Garcia Lorca, Jack Spicer, Langston Hughes and Jean Genet.

Tune: “A Galaxy of Beauties”
White Chrysanthemums
by Li Qingzhao

Autumn chill steals into my small chamber,
Curtains hung low as the long night drags on.
It grieves me to see your creamy flesh
Damaged overnight by relentless wind and rain.
You are not like Yang Guifei⑴ flushed with wine,
Sun Shou⑵ with knitted eyebrows,
Jia Wu⑶ who stole royal incense for Han Shou,
Or Lady Xu⑷ who powdered half her face to please a one-eyed emperor.
It would be inappropriate to compare you to these.
On maturer thoughts, your charm may fitly be likened
To that of Qu Yuan and Tao Qian.⑸
Your subtle fragrance, wafted by a soft breeze
Has all the sweetness of blooming raspberries.

Pure as snow, slim as jade, at autumn’s decline, You lean towards people with infinite tenderness
And with as much pathos as the two fairy maidens
Who made a present of their belt pearls
To Zheng Jiaofu at Han Gao⑹
And Lady Pan⑺ writing a mournful poem on a silk fan.
Bright moon, serene breeze may be followed
By thick mists, dark showers.
It is Heaven’s rill that you shall wither
As your scented breath fades away.
There’s no telling how long
Your beauty will yet remain, love you as I may.
But with me as your devoted admirer,
Need you envy the orchids gathered on the riverbank by Qu Yuan,
Or the chrysanthemums picked by Tao Qian beside the cast hedge?

⑴ Yang Guifei, favorite concubine of Emperor Ming Huang of the Tang Dynasty (61 8-907), one of the most famous beauties in Chinese history.
⑵ Sun Shou, rife of Liang Qi in the East Han (25-220), notorious for her coquetry.
⑶ Jia Wu, daughter of a minister in the third century, who stole incense from the Imperial Palace to make love to Han Shou, then a minor official under the minister.
⑷ Lady Xu, a concubine of the one-eyed Emperor of the Liang Dynasty in the sixth century, said to be so coquettish that she powdered half her face to win his favor.
⑸ Qu Yuan, alias Qu Ping, great philosopher and poet of the Kingdom of Chu in the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). Slandered by his political adversaries, he was out of favor with the king, and his loyal efforts to serve the state were ignored. He was exiled, and finally drowned himself in the river Milo, on whose banks he used to wander listlessly before taking his own life. His “Elegies of Chu,” in which he vented his political grievances, was an immortal contribution to classical Chinese literature.
Tao Qian, alias Tao Yuanming (c .365-427), one of China’s greatest writers of pastoral poetry. Abandoning the post of a petty official he enjoyed the life of a recluse in the quiet of his native fields, and wrote in praise of the simple way of living.
⑹ According to legend, Zheng Jiaofu was presented with belt pearls by two fairy maidens while passing Han G8o in present- day Hubei Province.
⑺ Lady Pan was a concubine of Emperor Cheng of the Han Dynasty (206-24 B.C.). Out of favor with the emperor, she aired her feelings in a poem inscribed on a silk fan. This attracted the emperor’s attention, and she was finally restored to his favor.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

多丽·咏白菊·李清照
小楼寒,夜长帘幕低垂。恨萧萧、无情风雨,夜来揉损琼肌。也不似、贵妃醉脸,也不似、孙寿愁眉。韩令偷香,徐娘傅粉,莫将比拟未新奇。细看取、屈平陶令,风韵正相宜。微风起,清芬蕴藉,不减酴醾。
渐秋阑、雪清玉瘦,向人无限依依。似愁凝、汉皋解佩,似泪洒、纨扇题诗。朗月清风,浓烟暗雨,天教憔悴度芳姿。纵爱惜、不知从此,留得几多时?人情好,何须更忆,泽畔东篱 。

Duō lì ·yǒng báijú · Lǐ Qīngzhào
xiǎo lóu hán, yè cháng lián mù dī chuí. Hèn xiāoxiāo , wúqíng fēngyǔ, yèlái róu sǔn qióng jī . Yě bù shì, guìfēi zuì liǎn , yě bù shì, sūn shòu chóuméi . Hán lìng tōu xiāng, xú niáng fùfěn , mò jiāng bǐnǐ wèi xīnqí. Xì kàn qǔ , qūpíng táo lìng , fēngyùn zhèng xiāngyí. Wéifēng qǐ, qīng fēn yùnjí , bù jiǎn tú mí .
Jiàn qiū lán , xuě qīng yù shòu , xiàng rén wúxiàn yīyī. Shì chóu níng, hàn gāo jiě pèi , shì lèi sǎ, wánshàn tí shī . Lǎng yuè qīngfēng, nóng yān àn yǔ, tiān jiào qiáocuì dù fāng zī. Zòng àixī, bùzhī cóngcǐ, liú dé jǐ duōshí? Rénqíng hǎo, héxū gèng yì, zé pàn dōng lí .

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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