When You Speak to Me by Tess Gallagher

Leonard Durso

Take care when you speak to me.
I might listen, I might
draw near as the flame
breathing with the log, breathing
with the tree it has not
forgotten. I might
put my face
next to
your face
in your nameless trouble,
in your trouble
and name.

It is a thing I learned
without learning; a hand
is a stronger mouth, a kiss could
crack the skull, small steps
in the air calling
the secret hands, the mouths
hidden in the flesh.

This isn’t robbery.
This isn’t your blood for my
tears, no confidence
in trade or barter. I may
say nothing back
which is to hear
after you the fever
inside the words we say
apart, the words we say so hard
they fall apart.

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from Sand of Silk-washing Stream: Lyric 3 by Wei Chuang

Leonard Durso

I wake in sad reverie; the moon is slating over the mountain;
A single lamp shines on the wall from behind the window curtain;
The beautiful one lives in a high apartment in the small tower.

I think of her lovely jade-like face–how shall I compare it?
A branch of cold plum blossoms in the spring snow.
The fragrant mist of her body is like the gathered clouds of dawn.

translated by Lois M. Fusek

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To Tzu-an by Yü Hsüan-chi

Leonard Durso

A thousand goblets at the farewell feast
can’t dilute my sorrow,
my heart at separation is twisted
in a hundred unyielding knots.
Tender orchids wilt and wither,
return to the garden of spring;
willow trees, here and there,
moor travelers’ boats.
In meeting and parting I lament
the unsettled clouds;
love and affection should learn from the river
in flowing on and on.
I know we won’t meet again
in the season of blossoms,
and I won’t sit by quietly
drunk in my chamber.

translated by Jan W. Walls

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Setting Sail on the Yang-tsze by Wei Ying-wu (written to Secretary Yuan)

Leonard Durso

Wistful, away from my friends and kin,
Through mist and fog I float and float
With the sail that bears me toward Lo-yang.
In Yang-chou trees linger bell-notes of evening,
Marking the day and the place of our parting. . . .
When shall we meet again and where?
. . .Destiny is a boat on the waves,
Borne to and fro, beyond our will.

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

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