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

guoande seal script jpegTo 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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Well before the dawn

Well before the dawn
A confused snow starts to swirl
Slanting left—then right
Floats—rises—falls half as rain
The night’s thoughts melting away

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First Fuck

On a day the sun
Was shining at the same time
As snow was falling
Alongside red and gold leaves
Newly naked as the trees

AGG20151022

Guo AndeTo 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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Busker

The young man slouches
Pulsating across his chest
The accordion
A perfect agreement moves
His voice and the raspy reeds

AGG20151015

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Our moment in time: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Complaint against a Prince”

The shower ended
Under the catalpa tree
Soft rain continued
Streaming off broad heart-shaped leaves
Mixed with falling white flowers

Our moment in time
Displaced as under tree rain
Confuses my dreams
As through the open window
I smell the roses dying

The fragrance fades first
Long before the petals fall
The scent once guided
Me unerringly to you
Now gone leaving empty night

The digital clock
Pretends time is uniform
Maintains its forced march
But the flowers and I know
Hours are stretched by regret

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Tune: “Complaint Against a Prince”
Late Spring
By Li Qingzhao

The clepsydra① has stopped dripping;
My dream is broken.
Heavy drinking last night
Intensifies my sorrow.
A chill falls on my jewelled pillow
As the kingfisher screen
Faces a new dawn.
Who swept away the fallen petals outside my door?
Was it the wind that blew the whole night through?

Echoes of a jade flute die away,
The player gone nobody knows where.②
Spring, too, will soon be fled,
Yet he has the heart not to keep
His date to return.
I ask the God of Spring
Through the drifting clouds,
What I should do with this longing, this regret,
This moment of time.

① A water clock or clepsydra (Greek κλεψύδρα from κλέπτειν kleptein, ‘to steal’; ὕδωρ hydor, ‘water’)
②Legend has it that the daughter of Duke Mu of the State of Qin (c. 7th century B.C.) married Xiao Shi, a gifted flute player. The couple lived happily in a jade tower, and one day riding a phoenix they flew away together to the Land of Immortals.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

怨王孙·李清照
梦断、漏悄,愁浓、酒恼。
宝枕生寒,翠屏向晓。
门外谁扫残红?
夜来风。
玉箫声断人何处?
春又去,忍把归期负。
此情此恨此际,拟托行云,问东君。

yuàn wáng sūn Lǐ Qīngzhào
mèng duàn , lòu qiǎo , chóu nóng , jiǔ nǎo 。
bǎo zhěn shēng hán , cuì píng xiàng xiǎo 。
mén wài shuí sǎo cán hóng ?
yè lái fēng 。
yù xiāo shēng duàn rén hé chǔ ?
chūn yòu qù , rěn bǎ guī qī fù 。
cǐ qíng cǐ hèn cǐ jì , nǐ tuō xíng yún , wèn dōng jūn 。

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Tested (While the Locust Tree Blooms): A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Weary Lovely Maiden”

An infection of flowers
Suddenly the locust tree
Breaks out in white blooms
From nowhere into thin air
Just as quickly fade

As an inflection of bees
Racing with the setting sun
All-female chorus
Of sex-trade workers buzzes
Death across flowers

Again I’m sitting
In the clinic waiting room
An HIV test
The drawing of blood and penance
This test–again–negative

All praise to the living ones
Who heard a different word
The future happened
Yesterday–tomorrow is
All about the past

Fever didn’t start
Just thirty-five years ago
Now we all know
Our flesh a kiss and a fuck
That’s all there is to a plague

Oh! And a virus
Born like all of us were from
A lesion of stars
Dust dying in ecstasy
Again again and again

AGG20150604

Tune: “A Weary Lovely Maiden”
When the Plums in the &ck Garden Burst into Bloom
by Li Qingzhao

Body slim as thin jade,
Branches with crimson halo.
Petals like snowflakes scattering,
A perfume that intoxicates.
I regret I again missed seeing you
In the first flush of this spring.
Here at my riverside lodge, I feel listless①
As the stream that glides away
In the wake of leisurely clouds.
I spend the clear long day
Idly leaning against the balustrade
With the kingfisher-green curtain rolled low.

My guests arrive. We burst into song as we fill our cups-
A melody that flows on quietly as a rippling stream,
Halts now and then like scudding clouds.
Let the southern branches of blossom
Be cut diligently when good to deck the hair with.
Wait; not till the mournful notes of a Tartar flute
Break out from the West Tower. 2

①The original Chinese translated literally is “a riverside tower in Chum, whi& means in effect a riverside lodge far away from home that revives nostalgic thoughts.
②”Fallinig Plum Blossoms” is a plaintive song played on a horizontal flute that reminded one of the transiency of spring. The poet Li Bai alluded to it in his “Hearing the Flute on Yellow Crane Tower.” The last line here is a pun on the song and the jarring Tartar flute.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

殢人娇 李清照
玉瘦香浓,檀深雪散。今年恨、探梅又晚。江楼楚馆,云闲水远。清昼永,凭栏翠帘低卷。
坐上客来,尊前酒满。歌声共、水流云断。南枝可插,更须频剪。莫直待西楼、数声羌管。

Tì rén jiāo  Lǐ Qīngzhào
Yù shòu xiāng nóng , tán shēnxuě sàn . Jīnnián hèn, tànméi yòu wǎn . Jiāng lóu chǔ guǎn , yún xián shuǐ yuǎn . Qīng zhòu yǒng, pínglán cuì lián dī juǎn.
Zuò shàng kè lái, zūn qián jiǔ mǎn . Gēshēng gòng, shuǐliú yún duàn. Nán zhī kě chā , gèng xū pín jiǎn. Mò zhídài xī lóu , shù shēng qiāng guǎn.

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Into the perfumed: A response to “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook,” attributed to Li Qingzhao

In the brief month since
I first climbed up your steep stairs
Pleasurable rooms
The first spring flowers have bloomed
And now the lilacs
Pollute the air—stain the streets

And again I fight
The urge to fly from the roof
Into the perfumed
Ether smothering the globe
Under lust and loneliness

Wires and Wi-Fi
For men to travel down dark
Through my open door
Arriving after moonrise
And gone well-before birdsong

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Translation: Zhou Bangyan’s “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook,” attributed to Li Qingzhao

Four hanging jade screens—
The clear, cloudless skies,
Surround the upper floors,
A green void at its feet—
The fragrant grasses stretching
To the ends of the earth.
I beg you, please, do not climb the highest stairs.

The once-fresh, slender shoots have already
Become sturdy stands of full-grown bamboo,
The bright fallen flowers are all woven
Into the dark mud of the swallows’ nests.
And I can no longer bear to hear the weeping
Of that lone cuckoo somewhere in the woods.

Translated by AGG20150510

Depth Charge: Our Tears Become a Language is my ongoing response to the poems of Li Qingzhao contained in volume of her poetry I picked up in China in 2002, Washing Jade Ci-Poetry Collection by Li Qingzhao Shuyu Ci Ji 李清照 漱玉词集.  The final section is an appendix with works whose authorship, while often attributed to Li Qingzhao, is widely question. This poem in particular is everywhere attributed to Zhou Bangyan  (1056-1121).  My project, however, is not to address questions of authorship, but to write a response to each of the poems in the book.

With most of the poems, I read the original Chinese, read comments about it in Chinese, and then do a word –by-word breakdown. Next, I find existing translations into English. Finally, I write my response. Unfortunately, there was no pre-existing translation into English for this poem that I could find, so I was forced to translate it myself.

Since translation is also a response, an interpretation, I will have to see how this affects my ultimate response.

浣溪沙·周邦彦
楼上晴天碧四垂,楼前芳草接天涯。劝君莫上最高梯。
新笋已成堂下竹,落花都上燕巢泥。忍听林表杜鹃啼。

Huànxīshā ·Zhōu Bāngyàn
Lóu shàng qíngtiān bì sì chuí , lóu qián fāng cǎo jiē tiānyá. Quàn jūn mò shàng zuìgāo tī .
Xīn sǔn yǐ chéng táng xià zhú, luòhuā dū shàng yàn cháo ní . Rěn tīng lín biǎo dùjuān tí .

Wash/Stream/Sand·Surname/State/Accomplished
Multi-storey building/up/clear/sky/jade/four/to hang, Multi-storey building/front/fragrant/grass/extend/sky/faraway place. Urge/you/not/go up/most/high/ladder.
New/bamboo shoots/already/become/hall/below/bamboo, to fall/flowers/all/up/swallow/nest/mud. (can’t)endure/to hear/forest/expression/cuckoo/to cry,weep.

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…”

To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”