Monday 19 April 2021

Five Transportation Poems from the Chinese by Tom Montag




 AFTER LI QING ZHAO'S

"THINNER THAN YELLOW FLOWERS"

 

Mist and

heavy sky.

 

All day

my sadness.

 

Another

year come

 

and gone.

Midnight's

 

chill is

moving through

 

the curtains.

Earlier,

 

my cup

of wine,

 

my evening

sweetness.

 

Now the wind,

breaking me

 

like a flower.


AFTER HE ZHU'S

"SPRING NIGHT"

 

Evening fades

at the edge

of the house.

 

A crow perches

in darkness

on the willow.

 

A woman

and the moon

pluck a plum

 

blossom. She

plays with its

fragrance and

 

goes back inside.

She closes

the curtains.

 

Tonight's wind is

just as cold

as last night's.

 


AFTER LU YOU'S

"MY HOME"

 

I am too lazy

to learn to garden.

 

I only want to fish,

to watch the swallows

 

along the river,

the seagulls settling

 

on the sandbars.

I only want to sing,

 

to hear my oars working,

to drink dew-clear wine

 

and eat this salt-fish

which tastes like flowers.

 

When anyone asks

"Where do you live?"

 

I smile and point.

My boat is my home.

 


AFTER HE ZHU'S

"ENJOY THE SPRING

AT OLD AGE"

 

I don't believe spring

tires of old men.

 

Old men can't see

too many springs.

 

Laughing and singing,

we enjoy the season.

 

Don't be upset

if I drink too much.

 

What is real

is only real

 

when you're drunk.

 


AFTER TWO LINES

FROM LI YU'S

"MY LOST KINGDOM"

 

Ask me how

much sorrow

I can bear.

 

I am like

a river

flooding.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I read only a few characters of Chinese, so these poems are more properly "transportations" rather than translations. I've tried to read every available translation of these poems and I still saw the poems struggling to come over into contemporary English. These are my attempts to free these poems and let the poets say now what they were trying to say then.

 




Tom Montag's books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Imagination's Place; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. Two new collections, The River Will Tell You and Maybe Holy: Six Old Monk Poems are forthcoming. His poem 'Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain' has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.

 tmmontag@centurylink.net


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