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


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.


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 .

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…”


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