Tested (While the Locust Tree Blooms): A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Weary Lovely Maiden”

An infection of flowers
Suddenly the locust tree
Breaks out in white blooms
From nowhere into thin air
Just as quickly fade

As an inflection of bees
Racing with the setting sun
All-female chorus
Of sex-trade workers buzzes
Death across flowers

Again I’m sitting
In the clinic waiting room
An HIV test
The drawing of blood and penance
This test–again–negative

All praise to the living ones
Who heard a different word
The future happened
Yesterday–tomorrow is
All about the past

Fever didn’t start
Just thirty-five years ago
Now we all know
Our flesh a kiss and a fuck
That’s all there is to a plague

Oh! And a virus
Born like all of us were from
A lesion of stars
Dust dying in ecstasy
Again again and again


Tune: “A Weary Lovely Maiden”
When the Plums in the &ck Garden Burst into Bloom
by Li Qingzhao

Body slim as thin jade,
Branches with crimson halo.
Petals like snowflakes scattering,
A perfume that intoxicates.
I regret I again missed seeing you
In the first flush of this spring.
Here at my riverside lodge, I feel listless①
As the stream that glides away
In the wake of leisurely clouds.
I spend the clear long day
Idly leaning against the balustrade
With the kingfisher-green curtain rolled low.

My guests arrive. We burst into song as we fill our cups-
A melody that flows on quietly as a rippling stream,
Halts now and then like scudding clouds.
Let the southern branches of blossom
Be cut diligently when good to deck the hair with.
Wait; not till the mournful notes of a Tartar flute
Break out from the West Tower. 2

①The original Chinese translated literally is “a riverside tower in Chum, whi& means in effect a riverside lodge far away from home that revives nostalgic thoughts.
②”Fallinig Plum Blossoms” is a plaintive song played on a horizontal flute that reminded one of the transiency of spring. The poet Li Bai alluded to it in his “Hearing the Flute on Yellow Crane Tower.” The last line here is a pun on the song and the jarring Tartar flute.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

殢人娇 李清照

Tì rén jiāo  Lǐ Qīngzhào
Yù shòu xiāng nóng , tán shēnxuě sàn . Jīnnián hèn, tànméi yòu wǎn . Jiāng lóu chǔ guǎn , yún xián shuǐ yuǎn . Qīng zhòu yǒng, pínglán cuì lián dī juǎn.
Zuò shàng kè lái, zūn qián jiǔ mǎn . Gēshēng gòng, shuǐliú yún duàn. Nán zhī kě chā , gèng xū pín jiǎn. Mò zhídài xī lóu , shù shēng qiāng guǎn.

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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