from Purple Starfish by Xu Demin

Leonard Durso

And I could not help regretting
That I made decorative patterns on my desk
Of your solidified tears
Now I have set up a miniature gravestone
In the quiet of my heart
If I had not known of your worldly existence
My heart would not have grown this heavy

Not all kindness
Gets the respect it deserves
Not all injuries
Are premeditated a long time
O starfish
Let’s be friends
My heart will be your forest of coral

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

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when you speak

Leonard Durso

there’s a way you have of talking
a familiar sound of words together
and I know I should listen
when you speak
but I‘m too busy
watching your mouth
to avoid staring in your eyes
so as not to be lost
in their depth
only trying not to get lost
gets me lost
and whatever you say
skips over my head
like some stone
thrown by some kid
on a lake
and off I go
skimming on water
until I sink
lost forever
in you

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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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