People Hide Their Love by Wu-ti

Leonard Durso

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

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language

Leonard Durso

I always seem to be places
where people are speaking
a language other than my own
even in the Third World of America
that corner I occupied for many years
I was the perennial outsider
forever the alien at home
among a symphony of sounds
I could not, cannot understand
but enjoy the music
nonetheless

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on being foreign

Leonard Durso

we are all foreign devils
to someone
as in France, say
they wouldn’t care
if you identify with Sartre
or if I love Paul Eluard
neither one of us would still be French
or in Russia, say
they would be oblivious to your love of Gogol
or my love of Turgenev
no matter how many books of theirs we’ve read
we still wouldn’t be Russian
or in China, say
you might know the Classics
and I can handle a pair of chopsticks
but there’s no way we’re passing for Chinese
you can travel
you can mingle
you can know your p’s and q’s
but it all goes
just so far
for you see
you are what you are
and you ain’t what you ain’t
and somewhere, some time, somehow
you can’t be what they are
just a foreigner
stranded on an alien landscape
making do as best you can

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The Autumn Wind by Wu-ti

Leonard Durso

Autumn wind rises: white clouds fly.
Grass and trees wither: geese go south.
Orchids all in bloom: chrysanthemums smell sweet.
I think of my lovely lady: I can never forget.
Floating-pagoda boat crosses Fen River.
Across the mid-stream white waves rise;
Flute and drum keep time to sound of the rowers’ song;
Amidst revel and feasting, sad thoughts come;
Youth’s years are few! Age how sure!

translated by Arthur Waley

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Upon Seeing the Fireflies by Tu Fu

Leonard Durso

On Witch Mountain the fireflies flit in the autumn night:
Cleverly they enter the open lattice to alight on my clothes.
Suddenly I am startled at the coldness of my lute and books in the room;
Then I confuse the fireflies’ light with the sparse stars over the eaves.
Rounding the well’s railings, they come in an endless file;
Passing by chance the flower petals, they gambol and glow.
On this cold riverbank, my hair white, I feel sad when I look at them–
By this time next year, shall I have returned home?

translated by Wu-chi Liu

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from Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

Leonard Durso

Oscar Johnson refused to back off from a claim that he was born and raised in center-city Detroit, where, he said, he first learned the principles of human diplomacy. He listed them in precise order–compromise, give-‘n’-take, courtesy, magnanimity. “An’ if you still don’ get what you want,” Oscar said, “then crack the sons of bitches with a sledgehammer.” Diplomacy, he was fond of saying, is the art of persuasion; and war–never citing his sources–is simply diplomacy continued through other means. . .

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