from Miscellaneous Poems, Poem 3 by T’ao Ch’ien

Bright blossoms seldom last long;
Life’s ups-and-downs can’t be charted.
What was a lotus flower in spring,
Is now the seed-husk of autumn.
Severe frost freezes the wild grass:
Decay has yet to finish it off.
Sun and moon come back once more,
But where I go, no sun will shine.
I look back longingly on times gone by–
Remembering the past wounds my soul.

translated by Eugene Eoyang

on January

it must be the month
January
always a bit difficult
to bear
both parents died
in this month
at the beginning
and the end
the middle being
no piece of cake
either
there were birthdays
this month
of women once important
a sort of yin and yang month
once both light and dark
now all dark
and I hold my breath
as I near the end
watching the rear view mirror
for what’s coming
from behind
while keeping my hands steady
as I move forward
one tentative step
at a time
toward the promise
of an early spring

People Hide Their Love by Wu-ti

Who says
That it’s by my desire,
This separation, this living so far from you?
My dress still smells of the lavender you gave:
My hand still holds the letter that you sent.
Round my waist I wear a double sash:
I dream that it binds us both with a same-heart knot.
Did not you know that people hide their love,
Like the flower that seems too precious to be picked?

translated by Arthur Waley

putting ghosts to sleep

it used to be
a glass of whiskey
was all that was needed
to put ghosts to sleep
but whiskey
an old dear friend
just isn’t up to the task
anymore
and I am beyond that crutch
now I face these old ghosts
and we converse
I listen to the old laments
the missed opportunities
the things not said
a hand not held
and commiserate
for one day
I too will be an old ghost
with my own regrets to tell
to whatever poor soul
awake at night
who will listen
and then I too
will grow drowsy
and fall asleep
after unburdening my sins
like these old ghosts
these friends of mine
who slumber around me
at peace for one more day
until night falls again
and their minds get working
reliving those past transgressions
omissions
that they need to recant
once again
to me