“The Constant Pressure of Starlight”

Starlight presses down
Through all unimagined space
Drifting its dark dusts
Into our collapsing hearts
Dispersing what could have been

When you first kissed me
Did you know there are fewer 
Stars than there should be 
And the dust we are now shines
With all their missing brightness?

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Revised AGG20160425

The title of this poems comes courtesy of John Mackenzie

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…”

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Supermoon on a Skateboard

When you are a child
The world’s gravity is fun
Swings—slides—monkey bars
Every challenge is a joy
When you fall—you get back up

No sense of balance
It’s Mid-Autumn Festival
There’s a Supermoon
So conditions are ideal
For skateboarding—and falling

Even the moon wants
To distance itself from us
Each year falls away
Three point eight centimetres
As it flees our gravity

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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…”

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The stars do not fall

The stars do not fall
The moon does not shrink and grow
There will come a day
The sun will not rise—so what
That your love’s a fucking lie

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Walking home after Le Soir des Monstres

A supermoon hangs
In the distance fireworks
Explode in silence
Muffled thuds following mixed
With unseen fragrant things

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Depth charge: Last night there was a supermoon, or “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.” It was also my final circus for this year’s Completment Cirque circus festival, Le Soir des Monstres. My walk home happened to coincide with fireworks exploding for the International Fireworks competition. This is Montreal on a summer Saturday night.

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You Are My Cosmos

To me you’re the moon:
A cold, lifeless piece of rock;
To me you’re the stars:
Distant and probably dead
Already—though you still shine.

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Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Sprig of Plum Blossom”

The year the geese don’t return
To skywrite our
Letters of love

Worry will descend silent
Onto our brows
Into our hearts

We’ll try and fail to recall
The scented sight
Of spring flowers

We’ll finally be as free
As falling leaves
And just as dead

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Depth Charge: The response to Li Qingzhao’s lyrical lament on separation from a loved one with a poem of environmental apocalypse was obviously influenced by Episode 9 of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos in which he detailed the mass extinctions experienced on Earth and warned of climate change caused by our addiction to burning fossil fuels. So, thanks for that, Neil.

Tune: A Sprig of Plum Blossom
Sorrow of Separation
by Li Qingzhao

The lotus has wilted, only a faint perfume remains;
On the bamboo mat there to a touch of autumn chill.
Softly I take off my silk dress
And step on board my orchid skiff alone. 1
Who is sending me the letter of brocade
From beyond the clouds?
When the wild geese return 2
The moon w i l l be flooding the West Chamber.

Flowers fall and drift away,
Water glides on,
After their nature .
Our yearning is the sort
Both sides far apart endure—
A melancholy feeling there’s no resisting.
As soon as it leaves the eyebrows
It surges up in the breast. 3

1) A boat made from lily magnolia wood

2) Wild geese were thought to be bearers of letters, especially love messages, because of t h e i r
regular migrations from north to south and vice versa.

3) The original is a famous couplet that s e n e 8 as natural sequel to the foregoing three lines.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

李清照一翦梅
红藕香残玉簟秋,轻解罗裳,独上兰舟。
云中谁寄锦书来?雁字回时,月满西楼。
花自飘零水自流,一种相思,两处闲愁。
此情无计可消除,才下眉头,却上心头。

李清照一翦梅
紅藕香殘玉簟秋,輕解羅裳,獨上蘭舟。
雲中誰寄錦書來?雁字回時,月滿西樓。
花自飄零水自流,一種相思,兩處閒愁。
此情無計可消除,才下眉頭,卻上心頭。

Li Qīngzhào yī jiǎn méi
Hóng ǒu xiāng cán yù diàn qiū, qīng jiě luō shang, dú shàng lán zhōu.
Yún zhōng shuí jì jǐn shū lái? Yàn zì huí shí, yuè mǎn xi lóu.
Huā zì piāolíng shuǐ zìliú, yī zhǒng xiāngsī, liǎng chù xián chóu.
Cǐ qíng wú jì kě xiāochú, cái xià méitóu, què shàng xīntóu.

Li Qingzhao/one/sprig/plum
Red/lotus/fragrant/stains/jade/mat/fall, gentle/undo/gauze/robe, alone/board/orchid/boat.
Cloud/midst/who/send/brocade/letter/arrive? Geese/letter/return/time, moon/floods/west/building.
Flower/itelf/falling (like autumn leaves)/water/itself/flows, one/type/feeling, two/places/stays/worry.
This/felling/without/plan/to eliminate, as soon as/descends on /brow, then/rises up in/heart-mind.

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

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…”

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Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Fisherman’s Pride”

The sad stars spin forever
Further and further apart
Disappear into dark dust
One-by-one
Where is it you want to go?

I’ll be cradled in the waves
Red sandstone—white sand—blue sea
The crow—mackerel—fox—me
We’ll dissolve
Beyond tears—these words—surprise

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Tune: “Fisherman’s Pride”
A Dream
by Li Qingzhao

Billowing clouds surging across the heavens
Merge into dawn’s hazy mist.
Sails in their thousands toss and dance
As the Milky Way recedes.
In a vision I find myself before the Heavenly Ruler,
Who asks solicitously
Where I wish to be off to.

“My journey is a long one,” I reply.
“The sun is setting all too soon.
And my brilliant poetic attempts, alas!
Have come to no purpose.”
Presently a whirlwind rises, and lo!
The Mighty Roc is winging to the Empyrean (1)
On a flight of ninety-thousand li.
Blow, 0 Whirlwind! Blow on without cease.
Blow my tiny craft to the three far-off isles (2)
Where the Immortals dwell.

(1)    A fabulous bird first described i n the works of Zhuang Ziin the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). When migrating to the South Seas it is said to strike the waters for 3000 li before soaring to a height of 9000 li on a whirlwind. Hence the popular saying “Roc’s Journey” frequently used by the Chinese to this day to congratulate someone embarking on a career of lofty aspirations.

(2)    i. e. the three legendary isles “Penglai, Fangzhang and Yingzhou in the Bohai Sea.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

李清照渔家傲
天接云涛连晓雾,星河欲转千帆舞。仿佛梦魂归帝所。闻天语,殷勤问我归何处。
我报路长嗟日暮,学诗谩有惊人句。九万里风鹏正举。风休住,蓬舟吹取三山去!

李清照漁家傲
天接雲濤連曉霧,星河欲轉千帆舞。彷彿夢魂歸帝所。聞天語,殷勤問我歸何處。
我報路長嗟日暮,學詩謾有驚人句。九萬里風鵬正舉。風休住,蓬舟吹取三山去!

Liqīngzhào Yújiā ào
Tiān jiē yún tāo lián xiǎo wù, xīnghé yù zhuǎn qiānfān wǔ . Fǎngfú mèng hún guī dì suǒ . Wén tiānyǔ , yīnqín wèn wǒ guī hé chù .
Wǒ bào lù cháng jiē rìmù , xué shī mán yǒu jīngrén jù . Jiǔ wàn lǐ fēng péng zhèng jǔ . Fēng xiū zhù, péng zhōu chuī qǔ sānshān qù !

Li Qingzhao Fisherman/home/pride
Sky/extend/cloud/big wave/in succession/dawn/mist, Star/river/desire/circle/1,000/sails/dance. As/if/dream/spirit/returns to/Huangdi (Sky God)/place. Hear/sky/speech, Solicitously/ask/me/return to/which/place.
I/reply/road/long/sigh!/sun/curtain(sets), study/poetry/slow/have/surprise/people/phrase. Nine/10,000/li(measure of distance)/wind/Mythical Bird/just/rising. Wind/rests/stay, Penglai (Mythical Islands)/boat/blow/take hold/three/mountains/go.

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

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…”

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Response to “What of the Night?” from The Book of Odes

What about the night?
You know—the unknowable
That encompasses
This fourteen billion year old
Droplet of expanding light

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Depth Charge: The Book of Odes, also called The Classic of Poetry, the oldest book of Chinese poetry, is a collection of 305 folksongs that dates back to the Zhou Dynasty, 11th to 7th Century BC. The line “夜如何其/What about the Night?” is referenced in Li Qingzhao’s poem “A Southern Song.” I have written a response to that poem as well. 

In episode six of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, Neil de Grasse Tyson, spoke about the seeable universe—the wall of light that is also the curtain of time—that we see in every direction when we look with microwave telescopes back 14 billion years.

庭燎:

夜如何其、夜未央、庭燎之光。
君子至止、鸞聲將將。

夜如何其、夜未艾、庭燎晣晣。
君子至止、鸞聲噦噦。

夜如何其、夜鄉晨、庭燎有輝。
君子至止、言觀其旂。

Tíng liáo:

Yè rúhé qí, yè wèiyāng, tíng liáo zhī guāng.
Jūnzǐ zhì zhǐ, luán shēng jiāng jiāng.

Yè rúhé qí, yè wèi ài, tíng liáo zhé zhé.
Jūnzǐ zhì zhǐ, luán shēng huì huì.

Yè rúhé qí, yè xiāng chen, tíng liáo yǒu huī.
Jūnzǐ zhì zhǐ, yán guān qí qí.

What of the Night?

What of the night?
The night is not yet spent.
The torches in the courtyard are alight.
But my lord has come;
Tinkle, tinkle go his harness bells.

What of the night?
The night is not yet old.
The torches in the courtyard are bright.
But my lord has come.
Twit, twit go the bells.

What of the night?
The night nears dawn.
The torches in the courtyard gleam.
My lord has come;
I can see his banners.

Translated by Arthur Waley.

To see  as different translation by James Legge, click here.

 

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…”

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A meteor in dark flight

Once you shone so brightly—now—
A meteor in dark flight,
Invisible and falling;
We stand silently—breath held—
To see if you hit the ground.

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“We are going to be looking at these poems primarily as literary documents and so we need not pursue further the connection between these poems and objects on the ground,” Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature, Part I, by Professor David J. Schenker

If you’d like to view the poetry and writing that is not tanka, or tanka related, please click here. 

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A sky full of ghosts

A sky full of ghosts
Last night played machines of time
Whirred hummed clicked banged buzzed
Their pulsating songs of love
The soundtrack of a lifetime

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(on seeing Kraftwerk perform)

Depth Charge: On Sunday, March 31, Kraftwerk performed at the Metropolis in Montreal. (The set included the version of Radioactivity below.) Although I have been listening to their music for over 35 years it was my first time seeing them live. The first line of the tanka comes from watching Episode 4 of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey.

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