رياح ليلة واحدة /The winds of one night: A response to Li Qingzhao’s “Picking Mulberry Seeds”

Once again I will try to fill the void
With desperate words and sad images,
If only I could write this in the script
Of your guttural native Arab tongue,
It’s fluid grace might be able to mask
These repetitive, plain phrases, dull pain
For one brief sentence, fragmentary phrase,
Allow you to move, breathe in memory,
Resurrect the flourishes of your life.
Strange that while your death was not violent,
It flows like blood—endless and recurrent,
A thing of fierce recursive beauty, dread.

The winds of one night
Can change the entire world
The winds of one night
Carried your last breath away
Now—much too late—we remark

AGG20150525
For ZG

Tune: “Picking Mulberry Seeds”
by Li Qingzhao

A gust of evening wind and rain
Washes the heat of blazing sunlight away.
My piping done,
I lightly touch up my face before the mirror.

Smooth as snow, fragrant as cream,
My soft skin glistens
In my flimsy sleeping-robe of purple silk.
I smile and say to my beloved:
“Tonight, our mat and pillows will be cool
Inside the gauze bed-curtains. ”

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

采桑子李清照
晚来一阵风兼雨,洗尽炎光。
理罢笙簧,却对菱花淡淡妆。
绛绡缕薄冰肌莹,雪腻酥香。
笑语檀郎,今夜纱厨枕簟凉。

Cǎi Sāng Zǐ Lǐ Qīngzhào
Wǎn lái yī zhèn fēng jiān yǔ , xǐ jìn yán guāng 。
Lǐ bà shēng huáng , què duì líng huā dàn dàn zhuāng 。
Jiàng xiāo lǚ báo bīng jī yíng , xuě nì sū xiāng 。
Xiào yǔ tán láng , jīn yè shā chú zhěn diàn liáng 。

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…”

To the stringent rhythms of chance

Sweet potatoes, salted-cod,
Catfish—whiskers scissored off,
Plantain, pork ribs, aubergine,
Roasted, deep-fried, gently steamed,
Both the savoury and the sweet,
Vegetables, fish and meat,
The mixing of these flavours
Manifesting the favour
Your presence, with gentle grace,
Bestows on us in this place,
To make this took untold hours,
Only minutes to devour.

The evening ends with a dance
To the stringent rhythms of chance.

AGG20150523
(This poem is a thank you to Alain
who cooked us a Congolese meal
on his 39th birthday
and then led us in a dance.)

Monkey No Aware #30 — Advice for Would-be Pearl Divers

lacrimae rerum by Andrew Grimes Griffin

Are you a homosexual? Have you had desires to feel the naked bodies of other men, or women, if you are a woman? If not, how then would you recognize these longings in the writings of others? You would be a pearl diver who has never seen a pearl. Occasionally, by accident, you might bring one to the surface, but mainly you would dredge up pebbles and empty shells. If you still wish to fish for pearls you must first listen long and hard to those who have actually seen them, held them in their hearts as in their hands.

AGG20150520

 

To see all the Monkey No Aware posts, click on the Monkey No Aware tag below.

Into the perfumed: A response to “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook,” attributed to Li Qingzhao

In the brief month since
I first climbed up your steep stairs
Pleasurable rooms
The first spring flowers have bloomed
And now the lilacs
Pollute the air—stain the streets

And again I fight
The urge to fly from the roof
Into the perfumed
Ether smothering the globe
Under lust and loneliness

Wires and Wi-Fi
For men to travel down dark
Through my open door
Arriving after moonrise
And gone well-before birdsong

AGG20150515

Translation: Zhou Bangyan’s “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook,” attributed to Li Qingzhao

Four hanging jade screens—
The clear, cloudless skies,
Surround the upper floors,
A green void at its feet—
The fragrant grasses stretching
To the ends of the earth.
I beg you, please, do not climb the highest stairs.

The once-fresh, slender shoots have already
Become sturdy stands of full-grown bamboo,
The bright fallen flowers are all woven
Into the dark mud of the swallows’ nests.
And I can no longer bear to hear the weeping
Of that lone cuckoo somewhere in the woods.

Translated by AGG20150510

Depth Charge: Our Tears Become a Language is my ongoing response to the poems of Li Qingzhao contained in volume of her poetry I picked up in China in 2002, Washing Jade Ci-Poetry Collection by Li Qingzhao Shuyu Ci Ji 李清照 漱玉词集.  The final section is an appendix with works whose authorship, while often attributed to Li Qingzhao, is widely question. This poem in particular is everywhere attributed to Zhou Bangyan  (1056-1121).  My project, however, is not to address questions of authorship, but to write a response to each of the poems in the book.

With most of the poems, I read the original Chinese, read comments about it in Chinese, and then do a word –by-word breakdown. Next, I find existing translations into English. Finally, I write my response. Unfortunately, there was no pre-existing translation into English for this poem that I could find, so I was forced to translate it myself.

Since translation is also a response, an interpretation, I will have to see how this affects my ultimate response.

浣溪沙·周邦彦
楼上晴天碧四垂,楼前芳草接天涯。劝君莫上最高梯。
新笋已成堂下竹,落花都上燕巢泥。忍听林表杜鹃啼。

Huànxīshā ·Zhōu Bāngyàn
Lóu shàng qíngtiān bì sì chuí , lóu qián fāng cǎo jiē tiānyá. Quàn jūn mò shàng zuìgāo tī .
Xīn sǔn yǐ chéng táng xià zhú, luòhuā dū shàng yàn cháo ní . Rěn tīng lín biǎo dùjuān tí .

Wash/Stream/Sand·Surname/State/Accomplished
Multi-storey building/up/clear/sky/jade/four/to hang, Multi-storey building/front/fragrant/grass/extend/sky/faraway place. Urge/you/not/go up/most/high/ladder.
New/bamboo shoots/already/become/hall/below/bamboo, to fall/flowers/all/up/swallow/nest/mud. (can’t)endure/to hear/forest/expression/cuckoo/to cry,weep.

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…”

Translation: Zhou Bangyan’s “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”

Four hanging jade screens—
The clear, cloudless skies,
Surround the upper floors,
A green void at its feet—
The fragrant grasses stretching
To the ends of the earth.
I beg you, please, do not climb the highest stairs.

The once-fresh, slender shoots have already
Become sturdy stands of full-grown bamboo,
The bright fallen flowers are all woven
Into the dark mud of the swallows’ nests.
And I can no longer bear to hear the weeping
Of that lone cuckoo somewhere in the woods.

Translated by AGG20150510

Photo: A detail of “Buddha foot” by Eileen Lavery. The statue is “Three-Legged Buddha” by Zhang Huan at Storm King Art Center, NY.

Depth Charge: Our Tears Become a Language is my ongoing response to the poems of Li Qingzhao contained in volume of her poetry I picked up in China in 2002, Washing Jade Ci-Poetry Collection by Li Qingzhao Shuyu Ci Ji 李清照 漱玉词集.  The final section is an appendix with works whose authorship, while often attributed to Li Qingzhao, is widely question. This poem in particular is everywhere attributed to Zhou Bangyan  (1056-1121).  My project, however, is not to address questions of authorship, but to write a response to each of the poems in the book.

With most of the poems, I read the original Chinese, read comments about it in Chinese, and then do a word –by-word breakdown. Next, I find existing translations into English. Finally, I write my response. Unfortunately, there was no pre-existing translation into English for this poem that I could find, so I was forced to translate it myself.

Since translation is also a response, an interpretation, I will have to see how this affects my ultimate response.

浣溪沙·周邦彦
楼上晴天碧四垂,楼前芳草接天涯。劝君莫上最高梯。
新笋已成堂下竹,落花都上燕巢泥。忍听林表杜鹃啼。

Huànxīshā ·Zhōu Bāngyàn
Lóu shàng qíngtiān bì sì chuí , lóu qián fāng cǎo jiē tiānyá. Quàn jūn mò shàng zuìgāo tī .
Xīn sǔn yǐ chéng táng xià zhú, luòhuā dū shàng yàn cháo ní . Rěn tīng lín biǎo dùjuān tí .

Wash/Stream/Sand·Surname/State/Accomplished
Multi-storey building/up/clear/sky/jade/four/to hang, Multi-storey building/front/fragrant/grass/extend/sky/faraway place. Urge/you/not/go up/most/high/ladder.
New/bamboo shoots/already/become/hall/below/bamboo, to fall/flowers/all/up/swallow/nest/mud. (can’t)endure/to hear/forest/expression/cuckoo/to cry,weep.

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…”

Punchline: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”

The clouds drifting shift
The moonlight shakes the shadows
Of branches bare in May
I cast words at that bright stone
—not an echo of reply

We joked about who’d
Be the first of us to go
Well the joke’s on me
But no one here is laughing
—even the wind is wordless

I must keep my eyes
Fixed—frozen—a sideways glance
Is all it would take
To give the whole game away
—for pearls to fall in the dark

AGG20150504
(for ZG)

Tune: “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”
Longing in the Boudoir
By Li Qingzhao①

A smile of happy recollection lights up her face
As she gently draws aside the curtain
Embroidered with blooming lotus,
And leans against the jewelled duck censer,
Her perfumed cheek on her hand, musing.
If she but rolls her eyes
She will immediately give herself away.

That first sweet meeting full of tenderest love!
She might as well send half a page
With endearing reproaches unburdening a pensive heart,
And have him come again
When the moon is moving the flower shadows.

①Translator’s note: This is one of the a-poems attributed to Li Qingzhao whose authenticity is questioned on the ground that the content is unworthy of a woman of her moral status. But it is included in many anthologies because the poet expresses her love boldly in defiance of the feudal shackles of her day and for some exquisite lines which bring out her inmost feelings in a lifelike way.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

Depth Charge: The last line of Li Qingzhao’s poem “月移花影约重来/ When the moon is moving the flower shadows” alludes to a line from a novel by Tang Dynasty writer元稹/Yuan Zhen (779 –831), “The Biography of Xing Xing,” considered to be the first novel in Chinese to explore the inner  psychology of its characters: “待月西厢下,迎风户半开。拂墙花影动,疑是玉人来/I wait beneath the moonlight by the Western Chamber,  a door swings open in the breeze, brushing the wall flowers  the shadows shake, I mistake it for her approach.” Yuan Zhen’s most famous poems are three elegies he wrote to the memory of his dead wife. My poem was particularly influenced by Elegy II.

浣溪沙·李清照
绣面芙蓉一笑开,斜飞宝鸭衬香腮。眼波才动被人猜。
一面风情深有韵,半笺娇恨寄幽怀。月移花影约重来。

Huànxīshā·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Xiù miàn fúróng yīxiào kāi , xié fēi bǎo yā chèn xiāng sāi . Yǎnbō cái dòng bèi rén cāi.
Yīmiàn fēngqíng shēn yǒu yùn , bàn jiān jiāo hèn jì yōu huái . Yuè yí huāyǐng yuē chóng lái.

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…”