Two Squid and Six Whales

Though the island’s small 
Room enough for a whale’s grave 
One of six Right Whales 
Deaths big enough to warrant 
News coverage and necropsies 
 
Almost escaping notice 
Two squid long lean tentacled 
Lying obscenely 
Motionless in the white sand 
Of no importance 

This seems too public an end 
For such a private creature 
Cellphone cameras 
Killing curiosity 
With unsparing light
 
The death of a squid 
Cannot be known–let alone 
Its under wave ways 
Its liquid life lived in dark 
Waters sparkling in the sun

AGG20170711 

Depth Charge: This poem echoes one of my earliest poems. A Sunday Drive to the Sea

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Charlottetown Harbour 4 AM

How quick the clouds are
To cover the full Moon’s light
In its final hour
Dark woods full of sleeping crows
Dark waters full of unknown

All week long people
Made strangers by passing time
Have been surfacing
Thrown up by the tides of chance
In memory’s tattered nets

Scraps of history
Causal conversation
Luminescent facts
Bright irresistible lures
Dangled before razor teeth

A strip of street lights
And a well-worn wooden path
Suffice for purpose
Desire grows with the unseen
Pluto shadowing the Moon

While Venus rising
Promises summer pleasures
Wild rose fresh bay leaf
Sun and wind on exposed skin
And salt drying on the lips

AGG20170709
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Last Day of Lobster Season

On the horizon 
Last day of lobster season 
Having pulled its traps 
A white boat returns to port 
Trailing ravenous white kites 
 
AGG20170630

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Clarion

piercing the window
slicing the habitual
haze of a work day
his urgency returns me
this year’s first cicada song
 
AGG20160830
Revised AGG20160810

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Seven Years Later in Parc Laurier: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Sand Washed by Waves”

As letters to words are years to memories,
Seven years today since I quit China,
Right on cue the summer’s first cicada sings,
Pestering with his wordless longing,
Asking what it is we’ve done with his precious time,
Well, I’ve  seen a whole lot of circuses,
Written well over six hundred poems,
Had sex with maybe half as many men,
All these various acrobatic routines swerve
Beauty from what was and never can be,
But I’ll leave it to the crows in Parc Laurier
To dispute over things delicious and dead.
These days when I turn my head,
It isn’t the Yangtze or Purple Gold Mountain I see
It is Mount Royal with the Saint Lawrence at its feet.

AGG20150710

Tune: “Sand Washed by Waves”
In Memoriam
by Li Qingzhao

Outside the curtains the howling fifth-watch wind
Blows away the last vestige of my melancholy dream.
Who will be my companion
When I go up the painted tower again?
I remember how he loved to chaff me
Poking the fire sideways with my jade hairpin—
A memory now vanished like the auspicious omen
In the seal-character incense.

Recollections flood my mind
Of happy days gone by
When the two of us climbed Purple Gold peak① hand in hand
Gazing at the hazy view below:
A river of spring waves wrapped in rain and mist ,
Gliding away as if half-sober and half-tipsy.
I keep on my garment
Tears shed the day before–
To shoot to the wild geese
As they wing past.

①Presumably an allusion to the Purple Gold Hill (Zhi Jin Shan ) on the south shore of the Yangtze River in today’s city of Nanjing.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

浪淘沙·李清照
帘外五更风,吹梦无踪。画楼重上与谁同?记得玉钗斜拨火,宝篆成空。
回首紫金峰,雨润烟浓。一江春浪醉醒中。留得罗襟前日泪,弹与征鸿。

Làng táo shā Lǐ Qīngzhào
lián wài wǔ gēng fēng, chuī mèng wú zōng. Huà lóu zhòng shàng yǔ shuí tóng ? Jìdé yù chāi xié bō huǒ , bǎo zhuàn chéng kōng .
Huíshǒu zǐjīn fēng , yǔ rùn yān nóng . Yī jiāng chūnlàng zuì xǐng zhōng. Liú dé luō jīn qiánrì lèi , dàn yǔ zhēng hóng .

Depth Charge: The photo is of the circus performance Duels which was part of Completement Cirque 2015.

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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Somewhere in Lebanon: A Response to “Peaches of the Two-Coloured Palace”

Somewhere in Lebanon
There’s a patch of fresh-turned earth,
Everywhere the last flowers of summer
Are being blown away by the night wind.

So many friends who’d have made
Such excellent old men have died too young,
Each new friend multiplies our pleasures,
This year past, a stream of laments.

Perhaps it will fall to me
To be the old man I often see
In a cream suit, brown cardigan and olive tie,
Singular in the early autumn sun,
Moving shakily through the park—
Head gradually emptied of memory,
Each breath a slow fade.

AGG20140821
(for ZG)

Al Ziz /  الزيز

What Possible Pleasures

Peaches of the Two-Coloured Palace
Attributed to Li Qingzhao

Soft, fragrant buds of carved jade dot its stem,
The 10,000 Tree Garden is desolate in the first month of the year.
A single branch breaches the snow with blooms,
Who can be entrusted with the letter that waits south of the river?

The year before last we shared the beauty of Climb-High Pavilion,
This past year a lament, all our joys fled like yesterday.
I listen to the carefree line of song that says:
In a place where many flowers bloom, expect pleasure.

Translated by AGG.

Depth Charge: I can find no other source that attributes this poem to Li Qingzhao, and it is not include in Jiaosheng Wang’s The Complete Ci-Poems of Li Qingzhao: A New English Translation. However, it is included in the book of Li Qingzhao’s poetry that I purchased in China and that is basis of this project; therefore, I have attempted my own translation on which to base the response.

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

二色宫桃 李清照
镂玉香苞酥点萼,正万木园林萧索。唯有一枝雪里开,江南有信凭谁托。前年记尝登高阁,叹年来、旧欢如昨。听取乐天一句云:花开处且须行乐。

二色宮桃 李清照
鏤玉香苞酥點萼,正萬木園林蕭索。唯有一枝雪裡開,江南有信憑誰托。前年記嘗登高閣,嘆年來、舊歡如昨。聽取樂天一句云:花開處且須行樂。

èr sè gōng táo Lǐ Qīngzhào
lòu yù xiāng bāo sū diǎn è 。
zhèng wàn mù , yuán lín xiāo suǒ 。
wéi yǒu yī zhī xuě lǐ kāi , jiāng nán yǒu xìn píng shuí tuō 。
qián nián jì shǎng dēng gāo gé 。
tàn nián lái , jiù huān rú zuó 。
tīng qǔ lè tiān yī jù yún : huā kāi chǔ , qiě xū xíng lè 。

Two/colour/palace/peach/Li/Qingzhao
engrave/jade/fragrant/bud/soft/dot/stem, first month/10,000/wood/bleak/melancholy. Only/have/one/branch/snow/in/bloom, River/South/have/letter/rely on/who/give. Before/year/remember/try already/climb/high/chamber. Lament/year/past, Old/joy/like/yesterday. Listen/to/care-free/one/line/says: Flower/bloom/place/moreover/expect/pleasure.

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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A Cicada’s Swan Song: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Spring in the Jade Pavilion”

“We survived. You and I. And those who survive have a duty. Our duty is to do our best to keep on living. Even if our lives are not perfect. ”
from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

How could either of us have known
My plastic balcony table
Would be your final resting place?

When I saw you there, I thought
You were already dead
So I picked you up; I noticed,
Your filigreed, shimmering wings,
Your two dark, oval eyes,
Your tapered, beveled body—
And then the white mold
Coating your underside—
A scourge to your kind.

Suddenly, you buzzed.
The unexpected movement,
Violent between my fingers,
Startled me into dropping you
Back onto the tabletop—
To you just another predator foiled.

Over the course of the day,
You crawled to the edge,
Then clung to the side,
And that is where you died.

The chemicals in your brain
Arranged into a song of longing,
Did you succeed in passing
Your sad melody along?
Does a slit in a twig somewhere
Conceal eggs that already know the tune?

No matter, your agonies
Pierced an untold number
Of smaller beings—like me,
For your vibrating heart
Shields a silence
That—like desire—the wind,
Though warm and merciless,
Cannot carry away.

AGG20140827

Tune: “Spring in the Jade Pavilion”
by Li Qingzhao

Red Plum Blossom
Soft red petals ready to unfold,
Luscious jade-green buds begin to break.
Tell me, are her southern branches all in full bloom?
I know not how much perfume she has in store,
I am only aware that her heart is throbbing
with boundless love.

The Taoist recluse at the spring window, how she pines!
No leaning against the balustrade, her mood so depressed.
Come have a drink, if you will, with no more ado.
Who knows but that tomorrow the wind may blow the
blossoms away?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

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

《玉楼春》 李清照
红酥肯放琼苞碎,探著南枝开遍未。不知酝藉几多香,但见包藏无限意。
道人憔悴春窗底,闷损阑干愁不倚。要来小酌便来休,未必明朝风不起。

《玉樓春》李清照
紅酥肯放瓊苞碎,探著南枝開遍未。不知醞藉幾多香,但見包藏無限意。
道人憔悴春窗底,悶損闌干愁不倚。要來小酌便來休,未必明朝風不起。

“Yùlóu chūn” Lǐ Qīngzhào
Hóng sū kěn fàng qióng bāo suì , tànzhe nán zhī kāi biàn wèi. Bùzhī yùn jí jǐ duō xiāng , dàn jiàn bāocáng wúxiàn yì.
Dàoren qiáocuì chūn chuāng dǐ , mèn sǔn lángān chóu bù yǐ. Yào lái xiǎo zhuó biàn lái xiū , wèibì míng cháo fēng bù qǐ.

“Jade/Storied Building/Spring” Li Qingzhao
Red/silky/willing/release/jade/bud/break, search/to make know/southern/branch/open/all over/not yet. Not knowing/harbor/conceal/how/much/fragrance, but/appear/to contain/unbounded/meaning.
Taoist/person/wan/sallow/spring/window/bottom, gloomy/decrease/balustrade/worry/not/rely on. Must/come/drink/snack/come/rest, maybe not/tomorrow morning/wind/not/rise.

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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Abegweit, You Were My Cradle

Abegweit, You Were My Cradle
(A response to a song by Lennie Gallant)

Abegweit, you were my cradle.
Though the sea eats your red flesh away,
The day will come you’ll be my grave,
Thyme, spruce and bay scented on the waves.

Though the sea eats our red flesh away,
The Man-Born-of-Speech sees his dreams
Of thyme, spruce and bay sent by the waves
To cheat the cradles and rob the graves.

Man-Born-of-Speech, have you ceased your dreams
Of swift hawks eating sweet goldfinches
To feed their cradles and stock your graves
Covered with sparkling morning dew?

Swift hawks eating sweet goldfinches,
The day will come you too will see my grave
Covered with sparkling morning dew
On Abegweit, cradled on the waves.

AGG20140814

Depth Charge: When I was on Prince Edward Island this summer I went to see Lennie Gallant at the Mackenzie Theatre and one of the highlights of the show was his song “Abegweit,” which featured chanting by Hubert Francis and recounted the Mi’kmaq legend that every night Glooscap, literally “Man [created] from only speech,” slept, dreaming, with Abegweit (now, Prince Edward Island) as his pillow. This pantoum was born of that song and my experiences on the Island this summer.

Griffin Tombstone_20140810_144053

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Swimming Nude in Summer Rain

It comes slanting dark
Across the north shore—warm—wet
Forcing a quick choice
Flee—or strip naked and swim
As the rain shivers the waves

Each drop raised a shining spout
Sparkling bright in the sunlight
From the thin blue band
At the still clear horizon
Of soft pulsing sea

The beach has been cleared
The families and couples
Decided to flee
Leaving me alone in this
Expanse of dancing silver

A gull and a cormorant
The only others witness
To shifting rhythms
Of rain shadow and light—but
They’ve seen it before

In half an hour
The rain has moved to the east
The sun reappears
The beach slowly fills again—
For them just another day

AGG20140805

Depth Charge: An absolutely amazing day at Blooming Point beach yesterday gave rise to this chain of  Reversing Tankas, a variation of Mirrored Tanka.

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Brackley Beach: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Complaint Against A Prince”

Artemisia flowers
Brown in the heat
Dune grass whispers

As wind ripples the waters
Pushing against
Incoming waves

Cliff swallows shoot high then dive
Swoop low hunting
Other small things

Jellyfish pulse purple trail
Blood-red stingers
Like history

Below the rolling surface
Slender fish mouth
Liquid secrets

The bright white gulls could care less
As we drift  past
They do not budge

A lone heron first rises
Above the dunes
Then drops back down

It arcs silent from the past
Enters wordless
Into our worlds

AGG20140731
(revised AGG20150823)
(for Anne Burke)

Depth Charge: I had a lovely walk on Brackley Beach, the beach of my childhood, with Anne Burke, who possesses the amazing power to name things.  She identified the Artemisia Maritima and it struck me that the word Artemisia also appears in the Li Qingzhao poem I just happened to be working on at the time, as did other words—gull, heron, wind and waves—resonant with the scenery.

Tune: ‘*Complaint Against A Prince”
Admiring Lotuses
by Li Qingzhao

Wind on the lake sends the waves
Drifting far and wide.
Autumn deepens. A few lotus blossoms remain
With a lingering fragrance.
Beautiful beyond words are these verdant hills and sparkling streams
That endear themselves to me so warmly.

Lotus pods ripen into seed
As lotus leaves grow sere;
Duckweed and rushes fringe the bank
Fresh-washed by crystal dew.
Dozing egrets and gulls on the sand
Do not so much as turn their heads,
As if they, too, resent
My going away so early.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

李清照怨王孙
湖上风来波浩渺,秋已暮、红稀香少。水光山色与人亲,说不尽、无穷好。
莲子已成荷叶老,清露洗、苹花汀草。眠沙鸥鹭不回头,似也恨、人归早。

李清照怨王孫
湖上風來波浩渺,秋已暮、紅稀香少。水光山色與人親,說不盡、無窮好。
蓮子已成荷葉老,清露洗、蘋花汀草。眠沙鷗鷺不回頭,似也恨、人歸早。

Lǐ Qīngzhào Yuàn wángsūn
Húshàng fēng lái bō hàomiǎo, qiū yǐ mù, hóng xī xiāng shǎo.Shuǐ guāngshān sè yǔ rén qīn, shuō bu jǐn, wúqióng hǎo.
Liánzǐ yǐ chéng hé yè lǎo, qīng lù xǐ, píng huā tīng cǎo .Mián shā’ōu lù bù huítóu, shì yě hèn, rén guī zǎo.

Li Qingzhao Complain/king/grandson
Lake/on/wind/arrive/wave/vast/extending, autumn/already/sunset, red/rare/fragrance/few. Water/light/mountain/colour/with/person/close, speak/without/end, endlessly/fond.
Lotus/seed/already/become/lotus/leaf/old, clear/dew/wash, Artemisia (duckweed)/flower/sandbank/grass. Sleep/raspy/gull/heron/not/turn/head/seem/also/resent/person/go back/early.

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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