رياح ليلة واحدة /The winds of one night: A response to Li Qingzhao’s “Picking Mulberry Seeds”

Once again I will try to fill the void
With desperate words and sad images,
If only I could write this in the script
Of your guttural native Arab tongue,
It’s fluid grace might be able to mask
These repetitive, plain phrases, dull pain
For one brief sentence, fragmentary phrase,
Allow you to move, breathe in memory,
Resurrect the flourishes of your life.
Strange that while your death was not violent,
It flows like blood—endless and recurrent,
A thing of fierce recursive beauty, dread.

The winds of one night
Can change the entire world
The winds of one night
Carried your last breath away
Now—much too late—we remark

AGG20150525
For ZG

Tune: “Picking Mulberry Seeds”
by Li Qingzhao

A gust of evening wind and rain
Washes the heat of blazing sunlight away.
My piping done,
I lightly touch up my face before the mirror.

Smooth as snow, fragrant as cream,
My soft skin glistens
In my flimsy sleeping-robe of purple silk.
I smile and say to my beloved:
“Tonight, our mat and pillows will be cool
Inside the gauze bed-curtains. ”

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

采桑子李清照
晚来一阵风兼雨,洗尽炎光。
理罢笙簧,却对菱花淡淡妆。
绛绡缕薄冰肌莹,雪腻酥香。
笑语檀郎,今夜纱厨枕簟凉。

Cǎi Sāng Zǐ Lǐ Qīngzhào
Wǎn lái yī zhèn fēng jiān yǔ , xǐ jìn yán guāng 。
Lǐ bà shēng huáng , què duì líng huā dàn dàn zhuāng 。
Jiàng xiāo lǚ báo bīng jī yíng , xuě nì sū xiāng 。
Xiào yǔ tán láng , jīn yè shā chú zhěn diàn liáng 。

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Hard Bargain : A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “The Lone Wild Goose”

The stars and I have struck a hard bargain,
Harder than Hector’s beautiful thick cock,
More enduring than Franco’s erection,
Bitter sweet still than any load of cum,
Impossible to break, unlike our loves,
Which we all know, or will know, easily
End, well or not, but all the same just end,
And in this bargain the dead stars become,
My living flesh, seeing eyes, consciousness,
And in return I promise to look up
In amazement through love with gratitude
That I can be briefly born on this earth
From the flower of their heavenly deaths
And with such beautiful men mingle breath.

AGG20150227
for MasterFranco and toscano111

Tune: “The Lone Wild Goose”
Plum Blossoms
by Li Qingzhao
Prefatory Note. People tend to be vulgar as soon as they start writing a ci-poem about the plum. Of this I was unauare till I had made an attempt myself.

Paper bed-curtains,
A couch of rattan.
No pleasant thoughts ease a troubled mind
When my morning sleep ends. Sandalwood incense burning fitfully,
The jade censer fallen cold–
Companion to my feelings thin as water. A flute playing “Falling Plum Blossms” three times over
Startles the plum-trees into sudden bloom,
And the air is filled with all the sweetness of spring.

Fine rain, gusty wind:
Lugubrious sounds once more urge
A thousand lines of tears.
Gone is the flute-player,
Deserted the jade tower
Nobody now shares with one broken-hearted.
I pluck a spray of bloom,
But who can I send it to,
The two of us now so far apart–
In Heaven and on Earth?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

孤雁儿·李清照
(世人作梅词,下笔便俗。予试作一篇,乃知前言不妄耳。)

藤床纸帐朝眠起,说不尽无佳思。沈香断续玉炉寒,伴我情怀如水。笛声三弄,梅心惊破,多少春情意。
小风疏雨萧萧地,又催下千行泪。吹箫人去玉楼空,肠断与谁同倚。一枝折得,人间天上,没个人堪寄。

Gūyàn er  · Lǐ Qīngzhào
(shìrén zuò méi cí, xiàbǐ biàn sú. Yǔ shì zuò yī piān, nǎi zhī qiányán bù wàng ěr.)

Téng chuáng zhǐ zhàng cháo mián qǐ , shuō bu jìn wú jiā sī . Chénxiāng duàn xù yù lú hán , bàn wǒ qínghuái rúshuǐ. Dí shēng sān nòng , méi xīn jīng pò , duōshǎo chūn qíngyì .
Xiǎo fēng shū yǔ xiāoxiāo de , yòu cuī xià qiān xíng lèi. Chuī xiāo rén qù yùlóu kōng , chángduàn yǔ shuí tóng yǐ . Yī zhīzhé dé, rénjiān tiānshàng, méi gèrén kān jì .

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Dark Matter

Something moves out there
Unseen—its darkness binding
Us all together—
Whole galaxies in its grip
What is this spiderless web?

AGG20150207

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These Mere Hearts of Stone

A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.
Charles Darwin

Not for a minute
Should you think mere hearts of stone
Do not feel as much
As less durable beings
Whose stay in this world is brief

AGG20150205

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Another Winter: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Immortal on the Riverbank”

Another winter
Silent snow so deep deep deep
Mechanical beasts
Rearranging it each night
Unseen outside my window

And so fucking what
If I’ve reached my middle age
No accomplishments
Age alcohol AIDS despair
Failed to put me in my grave

Meanwhile in Nanjing
Is there any snow at all?
The Year of the Ram
Will soon lantern your nighttime
Even if we can’t share it

Here snow is deep deep
Deep crystallized memories
I often walk with them
My tears become a language
Frozen by the bitter winds

That in thawing come the spring
The unwitting birds will sing

AGG20150203
for MKL

Tune : “lmmortal On The Riverbank” Spring Returns
By Li Qingzhao

Prefatory Note. The Venerable Sir Ouyang, in his “Butterflies Lingering Over Flowers”, has the line “Deep, how profoundly deep the courtyard is!” I very much admire it, and have composed a few rhymes beginning with the same words, the tune being the traditional “Immortal On the Riverbank.”

Deep, how profoundly deep the courtyard is!
Its rooms and casements
Perpetually locked in mist and cloud.
Willow sprouts and plum buds begin to show
As spring brings a new lease of life
To the trees of Mo Ling⑴,
Where I am fated to live out my little sojourn.

How many times we chanted verses together
On moonlit evenings leaning against the spring breeze!
Who cares I am now withering with age,
Alone and with nothing accomplished?
No point in pre-views of lanterns, ⑵
No mood to go treading the snow. ⑶

⑴Mo Ling and Jian Kang were ancient names for today’s city of Nanjing.
⑵ This alludes to the Song custom of visiting shows of festive lanterns before the Lantern Festival was celebrated on the Fifteenth Day of the First Month in the lunar year.
⑶ The poet recalls happy days in the past when she vent with her husband for walks in the snow composing verses impromptu.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.
临江仙·李清照

欧阳公作《蝶恋花》,有“深深深几许”之句,予酷爱之。用其语作“庭院深深”数阕,其声即旧《临江仙》也。

庭院深深深几许,云窗雾阁常扃。柳梢梅萼渐分明。春归秣陵树,人老建康城。
感月吟风多少事,如今老去无成。谁怜憔悴更凋零。试灯无意思,踏雪没心情。

Lín jiāng xiān · Lǐ Qīngzhào

Ouyáng gōng zuò “dié liàn huā”, yǒu “shēn shēn shēn jǐxǔ” zhī jù, yǔ
kù’ài zhī. Yòng qí yǔ zuò “tíngyuàn shēn shēn” shù què, qí shēng jí jiù
“lín jiāng xiān” yě.

Tíngyuàn shēn shēn shēn jǐxǔ? Yún chuāng wù gé cháng jiōng. Liǔ shāo méi è jiàn fēnmíng. Chūn guī mòlíng shù, rén lǎo jiàn kāng chéng.
Gǎn yuè yín fēng duōshǎo shì, rújīn lǎo qù wú chéng. Shuí lián qiáocuì gèng diāolíng. Shì dēng wú yìsi, tà xuě méi xīnqíng.

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Birdsong (For My Baby, For The Road): A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”

Witness to our sparse histories 
Black bare branches lattice the dawn‘s 
Grey winter sky with promises 
Of backyard birdsong

When you said he loved barbecue 
Thats when I knew he‘d been alive 
But after long illness was gone 
—And that’s when we cried

Soon after his—her final breath
—One last breeze of soft winter snow—
Her music followed memory
Where both had to go

This is what it means to be gone—
They can no longer share a meal
Or a dance in each other’s arms
—But we can and will

Beneath branches of full birdsong

AGG20150127
In Memoriam Gérald Chevrier (d. Dec 24, 2014) and Jacqueline Chevrier (d. Jan 10, 2015)

Gérald and Jacqueline Chevrier

Depth Charge: On Saturday, Jan 24, 2014, I attended the joint memorial service for Gérald and Jacqueline Chevrier, the parents of my friend Micheline Chevrier. I had never met either of them, but through the moving eulogy delivered by Micheline, I began to understand them and the influence they had had on her. That eulogy was a gift and a revelation and my poem nothing more than its pale shadow.

Tune: “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook” (a new veraion)
On Recovering from a Long Illness
by Li Qingzhao

Beside the window, convalescent I lie reclined,
My sparse hair greying at the temples,
My mind serene as I watch a waning moon
Climb the gauze curtains.
A drink of cardamom① leaf tips boiled over a living fire
Will do for me instead of tea.

An idler’s boon: Reading leisurely propped on pillows;
Lovelier after rain:
The view outside my door.
Sweet-scented cassia blossoms,
Delicate and loving,
Leaning towards me all day long.

①A medicinal herb still needful to the poet in her convaleseenee because of its effects of dispelling stomach ache, alleviating vomiting, etc., which can, however, be counteracted by a drink of tea.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

摊破浣溪沙 李清照
病起萧萧两鬓华,卧看残月上窗纱。豆蔻连梢煎熟水,莫分茶。
枕上诗书闲处好,门前风景雨来佳。终日向人多酝藉,木犀花。

Tān pò huànxīshā Lǐ Qīngzhào
Bìng qǐ xiāoxiāo liǎng bìn huá , wò kàn cányuè shàng chuāngshā. Dòukòu lián shāo jiān shú shuǐ , mò fēn chá .
Zhěnshàng shī shū xián chù hǎo , mén qián fēngjǐng yǔ lái jiā. Zhōngrì xiàng rén duō yùn jí , mùxī huā .

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Fermion Hearts Boson Beds

Our fermion hearts
Bound through endless boson beds
Ceaselessly waving
In opposite directions
Across promiscuous glue

AGG20150117

Depth Charge: Fermions are elementary particles that cannot share the same quantum state. Bosons are unlimited in the number that can share the same quantum state and, furthermore, they carry the force that holds matter together. This is my first attempt at poetry inspired by The Quantum Moment, Robert B. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber.

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Never Better Nothing More: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Remembering the Maid of Qin”

Dark dust of a billion stars
Lifting spiralling shifting
Settles into our being’s
Random DNA pairings
Love hunger but mostly fear
Ravelling unravelling
Evolution’s coiled ribbons
Lifting spiralling shifting
Black crows in the falling snow
Return at sunset noisy
With the day’s news in their beaks
Never better nothing more
The winter wind complicates
The urge of the snow to fall
Fifty years of memory
Lifting spiralling shifting
But always failing falling
Always settling into drifts
Of identical cold days
Sunset silences the crows
As—somewhere—a star explodes

AGG20150115

Tune: “Remembering the Maid of Qin”
The Wutong  Tree
by Li Qingzhao

Jumbled mountains, rolling plains:
The view from this high tower
Blurred in thin gleaming mist,
Thin gleaming mist.
Across the sunset sky
Flash crows coming home to roost;
At fall of dusk
Calls a distant bugle.

Fading incense, remnants of wine:
A heart full of remorse.
Parasol-leaves falling,
Parasol leaves falling.
Urged by the west wind.
Haunting me always,
Autumn’s somber colors.
Never leaves me alone,
The pain of loneliness.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

忆秦娥·桐·李清照
临高阁,乱山平野烟光薄。烟光薄,栖鸦归后,暮天闻角。
断香残酒情怀恶,西风催衬梧桐落。梧桐落,又还秋色,又还寂寞。

Yì qín é ·tóng·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Lín gāogé, luàn shān píngyě yān guāng báo . Yān guāng báo, qī yā guī hòu , mù tiān wén jiǎo .
Duàn xiāng cán jiǔ qínghuái è , xīfēng cuī chèn wútóng luò . Wútóng luò, yòu hái qiūsè , yòu hái jìmò.

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As for what remains: A Response to “Spring at Wuling” by Li Qingzhao

As for what remains—
An expanding universe
Doesn’t count for much—
It’s vastness still can’t contain
Our happiness grief and pain

AGG20141218

Tune: “Spring at Wu Ling” ①
by Li Qingzhao

The wind has subsided,
Faded all the flowers:
In the muddy earth
A lingering fragrance of petals.
Dusk falls. I’m in no mood to comb my hair.
Things remain, but all is lost.
Now he’s no more.
Tears choke my words.

I hear “Twin Brooks'” is still sweet②
With the breath of spring.
How I’d, too, love to go for a row,
On a light skiff.
I only fear at “Twin Brooks” my grasshopper of a boat
Wouldn’t be able to bear
Such a load of grief.

① Written in 1135, six years after her husband’s death, when Li Qingzhao was living at Jinhua in today’s Zhejiang Province as a temporary refuge from the Jin invasion.
②A stream in the southeast of Jinhua often visited by poets in Tang and Song times as a scenic resort.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

武陵春·李清照
风住尘香花已尽,日晚倦梳头。物是人非事事休,欲语泪先流。
闻说双溪春尚好,也拟泛轻舟。只恐双溪舴艋舟,载不动许多愁。

Wǔlíng chūn·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Fēng zhù chén xiānghuā yǐ jìn, rì wǎn juàn shūtóu. Wù shì rén fēi shì shì xiū, yù yǔ lèi xiān liú.
Wén shuō shuāng xī chūn shànghǎo, yě nǐ fàn qīngzhōu. Zhǐ kǒng shuāng xī zé měng zhōu, zài bù dòng xǔduō chóu

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The Disappearance: A Response to “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook” by Li Qingzhao

One day the layered
Layer upon layer
Billion upon billion
Golden-tentacled galaxies
Will have fled
So far so fast
The shifted light they share
Will become so distended so wide
That these waves will no longer fit
Within the known universe
And at this point in time
They will simply
Disappear
Dead? Perhaps
What way will there be to know?
Dead to us? Most definitely

And I have already seen this happen

That June evening you walked down
The long lane lined with lilacs
And I watched and watched
And watched until only the vulgar
Perfumed panicles remained
To trouble my purple dreams
Are you dead?
How am I to know?
Are you dead to me?
I wish
But each spring the purple blooms
Troubling my dreams
Of an empty lane beneath the fleeing stars
Return you to me

Silent and receding

AGG20141216

Depth Charge: Thanks to Lawrence M. Krauss for explaining how, in two trillion years, anything with eyes left to see, will be able to see only the stars in their own galaxy. Watch the entire lecture, or jump forward to about 59 minutes to hear a truncated explanation of the end of the universe.

Tune: “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”
To the Cassia Flower
by Li Qingzhao

Your petals-twisted into ten thousand flecks of soft gold;
Your leaves-layer upon layer of carved emerald jade.
Graceful in -bearing,
Noble and bright in spirit,
You are worthy to compare
With the ancient scholar Yan Fu. ①

Beside you how vulgar the plum,
For all its profusion of petals;
How coarse the lilac,
With its innumerable knotty branches.
But your all too heady perfume,
O you heartless flower!
Wakes my sorrowful dream
Of a thousand li away.

① The style name of Yue Guang of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), s scholar renowned for his erudition, wisdom and eloquence as well as his upright character as an official.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

摊破浣溪沙 李清照
揉破黄金万点轻,剪成碧玉叶层层。风度精神如彦辅,大鲜明。
梅蕊重重何俗甚,丁香千结苦麄生。熏透愁人千里梦,却无情。

Tān pò huànxīshā Lǐqīngzhào
Róu pò huángjīn wàn diǎn qīng , jiǎn chéng bìyù yè céng céng . Fēngdù jīngshén rú yàn fǔ , dà xiānmíng . Méi ruǐ chóngchóng hé sú shén , dīngxiāng qiān jié kǔ cū shēng . Xūn tòu chóu rén qiānlǐ mèng , què wúqíng.

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