poem 55 by Nizar Kabbani

Why do you ask me to write you?
Why do you ask me
To undress in front of you
Like a primitive man?
Only writing undresses me.
When I speak
I keep my clothes on.
When I write
I become free and light
Like a weightless legendary bird.
When I write,
I separate from history
From the earth’s gravity,
I turn like a planet
In the space of your eyes.

translated by Bassam K. Frangieh & Clementina R. Brown

An Old Toolshed by Yehuda Amichai

What’s this? This is an old toolshed.
No, this is a great past love.

Anxiety and Joy were here together
in this darkness
and Hope.
Perhaps I’ve been here once before.
I didn’t go near to find out.

These are the voices calling out of a dream.
No, this is a great love.
No, this is an old toolshed.

translated by Yehuda Amichai & Ted Hughes

poem by Louis Simpson

As birds are fitted to the boughs
That blossom on the tree
And whisper when the south wind blows–
So was my love to me.

And still she blossoms in my mind
And whispers softly, though
The clouds are fitted to the wind,
The wind is to the snow.

poem by Han Shan

Man lives his life in a dust bowl,
Just like vermin in the middle of the pot:
All day going round and round,
Never getting out from the inside.
Blessedness is not our lot:
Only nettlesomeness without end.
Time is like a flowing river—
One day, we wake up old men.

translated by Eugene Eoyang

from dreaming of Li Po, Two Poems: from 1 by Tu Fu

Old friend, you appeared in a dream,
It shows you have long been in my thoughts.
Perhaps it wasn’t your living soul:
The way’s too far, it couldn’t be done.
Your spirit came: and the maples were green:
Your spirit left: the mountain pass darkened.
Friend, now that you’re ensnared down there,
How did you manage to wing away?
Moonlight shines full on the rafters,
Yet I wonder if it isn’t your reflection.
The waters are deep, the waves expansive:
Don’t let the water dragon get you!

translated by Eugene Eoyang