Fading, but not fast: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Rouged Lips”

At the bottom of the stairs, I stop, turn
To see you standing up there , naked still,
A light screen of perspiration clinging
To our now separate skins, no longer
Twinned, though Castor and Pollux still ride high
As I step into the fresh, sterile air
Of late March with its night breezes yet free
From spring blooms with their desperate perfumes—
Efflorescence, procreation, decay,
Our own coupling productive of nothing
Beyond a shared luxury of pleasure,
A moment and a memory fading,
But not fast, if I close my eyes I can
Feel lines traced thirty years ago by hand.

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For Top07

‘Tune: “Rouged Lips”
Naivete
by Li Qingzhao

Stepping down from the swing,
Languidly she smooths her soft slender hands,
Her flimsy dress wet with light perspiration—
A slim flower trembling with heavy dew.

Spying a stranger, she walks hastily away in shyness:
Her feet in bare socks,
Her gold hairpin fallen.
Then she stops to lean against a gate,
And looking back,
Makes as if sniffing a green plum

The two of us now so far apart–
In Heaven and on Earth?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

点绛唇·李清照
蹴罢秋千,起来慵整纤纤手。露浓花瘦,薄汗轻衣透。
见客入来,袜刬金钗溜。和羞走,倚门回首,却把青梅嗅。

Diǎn jiàng chún·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Cù bà qiūqiān, qǐlái yōng zhěng xiān xiān shǒu. Lù nóng huā shòu, báo hàn qīng yī tòu.
Jiàn kè rù lái, wà chǎn jīn chāi liū. Hé xiū zǒu, yǐ mén huíshǒu, què bǎ qīngméi xiù.

Depth Charge: This poem is in the appendix reserved for poems which, although often attributed to Li Qingzaho, have contested authorship. Certainly, the theme and imagery of this poem seem to be more in keeping with ci poetry written by men in which they fantasize they are women fantasizing about men and, thereby, ascribe their own fantasies about women to the woman herself.

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