Seeing the Year Out by Su Tung-p’o

Want to know what the passing year is like?
A snake slithering down a hole.
Half his long scales already hidden,
how to stop him from getting away?
Grab his tail and pull, you say?
Pull all you like–it does no good.
The children try hard not to doze,
chatter back and forth to stay awake,
but I say let dawn cocks keep still!
I fear the noise of watch drums pounding.
We’ve sat so long the lamp’s burned out.
I get up and look at the slanting Dipper.
How could I hope next year won’t come?
My mind shrinks from the failures it may bring.
I work to hold on to the night
while I can still brag I’m young.

translated by Burton Watson

RIP Joan Didion

From Slouching Towards Bethlehem

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was.

more than a number

she said
age is just a number
so typical
of the young
not understanding
age is more
than a number
but the creaking of bones
in the morning
the shortness of breath
after climbing 5 long flights
the slow diminishing of sight
when reading those beloved books
and the hearing of beating wings
as that dark angel
draws closer
as each night falls

from To the Tune of “The Court Fills with Fragrance” Part III by Su Dong-po

“Return to where I belong”
Where do I belong
Home near Min and Emei thousands of miles away
My hundred years nearly half gone
The coming days won’t be many
Suddenly I’ve seen another leap year at Huangzhou
All of my children
speak and sing in the local dialect
Friends from these mountains
with chicken and pork and festival wine
urge me to grow old at East Hill

What can I say
as I leave here
the events of our lives
come and go like a shuttle
I’ll soon be watching the autumn wind
stir crystal waves of the Luo
Lucky for these slender willows by my house
Thinking of me
no one will lop their tender branches
Pass the word
to elders along the Yangtze
sun my fishing cape now and then

translated by Yun Wang


;

To the Tune of”Southern Countryside” I by Su Dong-po

Frost is on the ground and the river has shrunk
Distant shoals appear amid shimmering green shallows
As the wine wears off I begin to feel the wind
I shiver
My torn hair clings to my head with too many thoughts

How can I give thanks to autumn
Let me say goodbye with this sparkling cup
Everything becomes a dream in the end
Let this be enough
Tomorrow even butterflies will mourn the chrysanthemums

translated by Yun Wang

a young woman runs: for Aliona & Bucks

the sun overhead
heating the world
this autumn day
a young woman runs
her dog at her heels
her long blonde hair
pulled back
in a ponytail
bouncing in rhythm
to her strides
the dog lets out cries
twirling with joy
as they run
one afternoon receding
as another begins
bringing hope
to this old heart
that a new day
is not just coming
but is already here