Vigil

No ten thousand people
Not even ten thousand times ten thousand
Can return to life the six Muslim men
Killed by a single malicious man
But we stand in the cold listening
With silent incomprehension
To a prayer offered to the dead
Behind us two men chant
In rhythms with the speaker
And to our left two small children
Laugh as they play in the snow
Oblivious to the growing crowd
Because they have not been taught
To hate
Yet

AGG20160130
(for Azzeddine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Mamadou Tanou,  Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane)

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For Now (New Year’s Day 2017)

Back home on the back balcony
The sun breaking through the blue
The cold wind of New Year’s Day
Excites yesterday’s snow into life
Sharpens memories
Of you sitting wrapped
x    And warm beside the fire
Of our parting embrace
x    My arms around your tiny frame
x    Your face beautiful and old
x    Pressed against my chest
x    My lifetime contained within yours
For now
x    The heart you gave me beats next to yours
For now
x    The breath you breathed into me we share
For now

AGG20170101
for FMG

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The city strange as the sea

The city strange as the sea
Never knows a true moment
Of complete silence
The predawn sky pale and calm
Still thrums noisily

Relentless as waves
Advancing and receding
Eat this small island
Alive but not from hunger
Solely from force of habit

AGG20160831

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A Carload of Poets: A Response to “Bowl of Green Jade” by Li Qingzhao

A small island  
In a  sea of secrets, some 
As big as a blue whale, others 
As tiny as a sand flea, 
Dangerous conversations fuelled 
By Ten Pennies and Crown Royal, 
Bio-luminescent sparks, 
Dark—winter-night dark, 
Bright—impossible-star bright, 
Accented words echoing stark  
Rhythms, as endless as the water and sky  
When they merge into that singular colour 
The one that means reflected need. 
 
Remind me one more time,
Why did we all hurry to leave?
 
 
A couple have since returned  
Like the eagles, the cormorants and the crows, 
To find such purpose as may be found, perched 
Beside eroding red cliffs, 
The rest of us   
Touchdown, 
Take off,  
Singly, or in small groups,  
But rarely in the autumn, 
After the yellowing leaves have all fallen, 
When we might eavesdrop 
On the sky as it comes right down
In cold, streaking tears 
To trouble the waters  
With whispers of woe and wonder. 
 
AGG20151005 

Tune: Bowl of Green Jade
A Fortuitous Meeting
by Li Qingzhao

Haste not back so soon!
No glimpse yet of Handan Road 1
For all our peregrinations.
Autumn wind so dreary,
How are we to while our days away?
A drink under a clear window,
An idle chat beside a dim lamp,
Would be the ideal way to relax.

Each laments her declining years as we meet,
Chanting many a new verse with thrilling rhymes—
Poetic talent a family tradition people much prize.2
Now frail and decrepit,
Nothing remains to me but profuse tears
Falling like rain in the season of yellowing plums.

1 Legend has it that a scholar named Lu, while travelling on Handan Road, met a Taoist priest who gave him a magic pillow. When he went to sleep, he dreamed that he passed several decades living in wealth and prosperity. But on waking he found that the pot of millet he had left boiling on the stove was not yet done.

2 One day Xie An the Imperial Tutor (c. third century) was at home with his nephew Xie Lang and niece Xie Taoyun when it suddenly began to snow. He asked each of them good-humoredly what the snowflakes looked like. Xie Lang thought they might be likened to grains of salt dropped from the air. But Taoyun said the simile wasn’t so good as ‘willow catkins whirling in the wind’. Thenceforth ‘salt and willow catkin’ came to be regarded as a family tradition of literary talent.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

青玉案 李清照
征鞍不见邯郸路。莫便匆匆归去。秋正萧条何以度。明窗小酌,暗灯清话,最好流连处。相逢各自伤迟暮。独把新诗诵奇句。盐絮家风[1]人所许。如今憔悴,但馀双泪,一似黄梅雨。

Qīng yù àn Lǐ Qīngzhào
Zhēng ān bùjiàn hándān lù. Mò biàn cōngcōng guī qù. Qiū zhèng xiāotiáo héyǐ dù. Míng chuāng xiǎo zhuó, àn dēng qīng huà, zuì hǎo liúlián chù. Xiāngféng gèzì shāng chímù. Dú bǎ xīnshī sòng qí jù. Yán xù jiā fēng [1] rén suǒ xǔ. Rújīn qiáocuì, dàn yú shuāng lèi, yī sì huáng méiyǔ.

Green/jade/vessel Li Qinzhao
Jounery/saddle/not/see/Han-dan/road, Do not/easily/hurry-hurry/return/go. Autumn/just/bleak/desolate/which/manner/pass. Brigh/window/small-talk, dim/lamp/light/clear/talk, most/good/linger-on/place. Chance-meeting/each-one/wounded/past-prime. Alone/seize/new/poetry/recite aloud/wonderful/phrases. Salt/willow catkin/household/fashion/people/therein/praise. As of/now/thin/pallid, yet/remains/a pair/tears, one/resemble/yellow/plum/rain.

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Translation: “Sand Washed by Waves: Spring Melancholy”

Sand Washed by Waves
Spring Melancholy
Attributed to Li Qingzhao
Translated by Andrew Grimes Griffin

Her supple waist cinched by raw silk,
Enduring spring melancholy,
Under plum shadows she prepares,
Elegant, what does she resemble?
A lone filament of white cloud.

Her red lips move in skilful song,
Word after word, playful and clever,
She fords the peach blossom fringed path,
Gazes moonlit from the jade terrace,
Longs to catch sight of returning wheels.

guoande seal script jpegDepth Charge: I could find no ready-made translation of this poem, so I was forced to do one of my one before I could respond to it. For a Translation by John Mackenzie.

Wave/Wash/Sand·Harm/Spring·Li Qingzhao
White silk/restricted/small/waist/body,
Not/endure/injure/spring.
Sparse/plum shadow/under/evening/make-up/new.
Elegant and supple/what/pattern/resemble?
One/thread/light/cloud.

Song/skilful/moves/cinnabar/lips,
Word/word/playful/pouting.
Peach/blossom/deep/path/one time/to go through/ford.
Regretful/gaze/jade/terrace/clear/night/moon,
Still/illuminate/return/wheel.
浪淘沙·伤春·李清照
素约小腰身,不奈伤春。疏梅影下晚妆新。袅袅婷婷何样似?一缕轻云。
歌巧动朱唇,字字娇嗔。桃花深径一通津。怅望瑶台清夜月,还照归轮。

Làng táo shā·Shāng chūn·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Sù yuē xiǎo yāoshēn, bù nài shāng chūn. Shū méi yǐng xià wǎn zhuāng xīn. Niǎoniǎotíngtíng hé yàng shì? Yī lǚ qīng yún.
Gē qiǎo dòng zhūchún, zì zì jiāochēn. Táohuā shēn jìng yī tòng jīn. Chàng wàng yáo tái qīngyè yuè, hái zhào guī lún.

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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Listen to the waves

Listen to the waves
Whispering about what lies
Beneath—broken shells
Emptied of all life—except
Hermit crabs occasional

AGG20150704

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Old Man, Winter: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Pure Serene Music”

This year there’s seventeen feet of white snow
Before we even reach the cold, hard ground,
How are we going to bury you, old man?
At this rate, the purple lilacs will not
Dare to bloom until well into August,
Flowers for your late funeral, old man.
We’ll be talking about twenty-fifteen,
At least until something worse comes along,
Forgetfulness will bury you, old man,
But right now ploughs are losing the battle
To keep the Island’s arteries unclogged,
And people are beginning to panic,
To wonder if we don’t need a new plan,
If we hope to get you buried, old man.

AGG20150326

Depth Charge: At the time of writing this, Charlottetown, PEI, has an accumulated winter 2014-15 snowfall of 515 cm, about 17 feet, most of which has fallen since late-January.

Tune : “Pure Serene Music”
By Li Qingzhao

Year after year in the snow I used to get drunk
While picking plum blossoms to put in my hair.
Now twisting all the fallen petals to no good purpose,
I only drench my clothes with pure tears.

This year at the end of the earth,
My hair at the temples is streaked with grey.
Now that the evening wind is growing in force,
I shall be hard put to it to enjoy plum blossoms.

You might as well as the bright red flowers
Why they bloom and for whom they perfume the air?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

清平乐李清照 
年年雪里,常插梅花醉。挼尽梅花无好意,赢得满衣清泪。 
今年海角天涯,萧萧两鬓生华。看取晚来风势,故应难看梅花 
 
Qīngpíng Yuè Lǐ Qīngzhào  
 
Nián nián xuě lǐ,  
Cháng chā méihuā zuì.  
Ruó jǐn méihuā wú hǎoyì ,  
Yíngdé mǎn yī qīng lèi.  
 
Jīnnián hǎi jiǎo tiānyá ,  
Xiāoxiāo liǎng bìn shēng huá . 
Kàn qǔ wǎn lái fēngshì,  
Gù yīng nánkàn méihuā .

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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