Numerous and nameless,
We watched them explode red and gold,
Now that they are dead and gone,
We see the secrets they concealed:
A wasp nest as big as a football,
A ghost town in the bare branches,
A once complete civilization,
Now a grey collapsing globe.
With the year’s rush of life behind us,
When each day begins and ends in darkness,
We’re afforded clear views in this space
Between fallen leaves and killing frosts.
It is time to celebrate our dead,
Stage our feasts to tempt them
From their congested graves
Into our hollow hearts—
x —Día de los Muertos—
x Día de los Inocentes y
x Día de los Difuntos—
x Odawa ghost suppers—
x All Saints’ Day—
x All Souls’ Day—
Lure them with sweets,
Lull them with prayers,
Place flowers on their candlelit tombs,
The wind will still blow it all away.
The wasp nest will become more tattered,
More ragged with each passing day,
The amnesty of the snows arrives
—in its own sweet time, own soft way.
Tune : “Perfumed Garden”
Fading Plum Blossom
by Li Qingzhao
My small boudoir hides a sprig of spring
Behind locked windows where no daylight filters.
The painted hall adjoining—a retreat of profound seclusion.
The coiled incense burnt out,
Shadows of the sun lengthen below the curtain-hooks.
Lonely as He Sun in Yangzhou, ①
With no one coming to visit,
Need I go roaming distant streams and towers
In quest of wild blossom
Now that the plum I planted
Is blooming luxuriantly?
Unsurpassed in charm,
My Flower cannot stand being trampled on by wind and rain.
And whose is that horizontal flute
That wakes such painful memories?
Grieve not when her subtle perfume dissolves
And snow-white petals fall.
Even though no vestige of her remains,
Her tender love will endure!
And on calm evenings, her lacy shadows
Cast by a pale moon
Will be beautiful beyond words. ②
① A gifted poet in the Liang Dynasty (502-557) whose poems were much appreciated for their subtlety by the great Tang Poet Du Fu. When he was an official at Yangzhou, he very much loved a plum tree in the courtyard of his office. He missed it so much when he me transferred to Loyang, that his superiors granted his request to return to Yangzhou out of sympathy. Thenceforth the tree completely engrossed his attention so that he could hardly tear himself away from it. He loved to sit facing the tree and write poetry whenever he was free from official duty, Li Qingzhao evidently attributed his doting on this tree to a sense of loneliness he must have felt when he considered that to be an official was devoid of meaning.
②A description derived partly from “Ode to the Plum Blossom” by the poet Lin Heqing of the Song Dynasty, generally considered the finest eulogy of plum blossoms in classical Chinese literature
Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.
Mǎn tíng fāng Lǐ Qīngzhào
Xiǎo gé cáng chūn, xián chuāng suǒ zhòu, huà táng wúxiàn shēn yōu. Zhuàn xiāng shāo jǐn , rì yǐng xià lián gōu. Shǒu zhǒng jiāng méi jiàn hǎo , yòu hébì, lín shuǐ dēnglóu . Wú rén dào, jìliáo húnsì , Hé Sùn zài Yángzhōu .
Cónglái, zhī yùn shèng , nánkān yǔ jí jiè , bù nài fēng róu róu . Gèng shuí jiā héngdí , chuī dòng nóng chóu. Mò hèn xiāng xiāo xuě jiǎn, xū xìndào, sǎo jī nán liú . Nán yán chù, liáng chuāng dàn yuè, shū yǐng shàng fēngliú.
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