The Point of No Returning: A Response to “Mountain Hawthorn” by Zhu Shuzhen, attributed to Li Qingzhao

Were I to start to
Walk—I’d reach the horizon
Before I’d meet you
Who is receding so fast
Even the clouds are closer

The leaves have fallen
Fourteen times—you’ve not returned
Which is for the best
Since you are dead and our tears
Have long ago all dried up

I’ve adorned myself
With cicadas—scorpions
Other beings with hard shells
Secret soft interiors

We employed them all
The usual wards and spells
To keep fear away
But mostly we have let time
Do its dance of distraction

Were you now to stand
Before us you’d be hard pressed
To catch the slightest
Reflection of your pale self
In our eyes so dry and wide


Depth Charge: This poem is universally attributed to Zhu Shuzhen ( 朱淑真); however, as it is included in the volume Washing Jade Ci-Poetry Collection by Li Qingzhao Shuyu Ci Ji 李清照 漱玉词集 on which I am basing this project, I must respond to it.

To the Tune of “Mountain Hawthorn”
by Zhu Shuzhen (Attributed to Li Qingzhao)

Every year at the jade mirror stand,
it’s harder to paint myself into a plum flower.
You didn’t return home this year,
and each letter from across the Yangtze fills me with fear.

I drink less since our separation,
my tears exhausted by sorrow.
I see deep Chu clouds when I think of him in the distance.
My man is far and the world’s edge is near.

Translation from “The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry: From the Ancient to the Contemporary, The Full 3,000 Year Tradition,” edited by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping.

年年玉镜台 ,梅蕊宫妆困 .
今岁未归家 ,怕见江南信 .

酒从别后疏 ,泪向愁中尽 .
遥想楚云深, 人远天涯近.

Zhū Shūzhēn <shēng chá zi >
Nián nián yù jìngtái, méi ruǐ gōng zhuāng kùn.
Jīn suì wèi guī jiā, pà jiàn jiāngnán xìn.

jiǔ cóng bié hòu shū, lèi xiàng chóu zhōng jǐn.
Yáoxiǎng chǔ yún shēn, rén yuǎn tiānyá jìn.

Zhu Shuzhen <Mountain Hawthorn >

Year/year/jade/mirror/table, plum/stamen/palace/make-up/tried.
Now/year/not yet/return/home, fear/see/river/south/letter.

Wine/from/parting/after/sparse, tears/formerly/to worry about/in the midst/exhausted.
Distant/think/Ancient Kingdom of Chu/cloud/dark, person/far/sky/horizon/close.

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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