A Night-Mooring at Wu-chang by Lu Lun

Far off in the clouds stand the walls of Han-yang,
Another day’s journey for my lone sail . . .
Though a river merchant ought to sleep in this calm weather,
I listen to the tide at night and voices of the boatman.
. . . My thin hair grows wintry, like the triple Hsiang streams,
Three thousand miles my heart goes, homesick with the moon;
But the war has left me nothing of my heritage—
And oh, the pangs of hearing these drums along the river!

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

A Farewell to Li Tuan by Lu Lun

By the old gate, among yellow grasses;
Still we linger, sick at heart.
The way you must follow through cold clouds
Will lead you this evening into snow.
Your father died; you left home young;
Nobody knew of your misfortunes.
We cry, we say nothing. What can I wish you
In this blowing wintry world?

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

my review of Only Witness by Jim Powell

Short stories, a university professor once told our class, offer us a glimpse into a life, a moment, often a defining one, when the character of the people in the story is clearly visible. At least that’s how he explained how short stories were different than novels. Often I find that the case with stories that are concerned with character as opposed to dazzling the reader with language for language’s sake. It certainly is true of the 19 stories in Jim Powell’s collection Only Witness.

Whether it’s one snowy night in a  Midwestern smalltown bar or on board a train heading toward Vienna, these stories capture that moment when people are exposed in all their faults or strengths. Here a wife confronts her marriage to a sex addict while burying her father, two young men involved with the same woman try to reach an understanding over the welfare of the little boy they have both, in their own way, come to love, an eleven year old boy faces the consequences of a rash act, a son confronts his own responsibilities toward his mother who is slowly descending into dementia. These people, whether one could consider them admirable or misguided, are drawn with a clear eye and an understanding heart by Powell. He understands them and presents them without judgment. They are exposed in that moment for us to understand, too. This author writes with the wisdom gained from what must be a life rich in experience who possesses the mind, the heart, and the skill to portray it with insight and compassion. These are stories I will return to again and again. What better way to understand human natüre than in the hands of a talented writer.Only Witness