When We Finally Turn Fifty by Wang Xiaolong

We’ll be just as we are now
Kissing as we casually fix a meal
Getting by whether or not the laundry’s been done
No talking allowed during reading time
No money in the bank
Having a spat once every three days on average
Making our walk home from the movies
Deliberately long and sad
Then pretending we haven’t known each other for three whole days
So we can be especially intimate on Sundays
The weather’s getting strangely pleasant
During the night we dream with our heads stuck together
And see two small dogs
Running across the snow

When we finally turn fifty

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

untitled poem by T’ao Ch’ien about the passage of time

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving–where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton

another poem from Cold Mountain by Han Shan

You have seen the blossoms among the leaves;
Tell me, how long will they stay?
Today they tremble before the hand that picks them;
Tomorrow they wait someone’s garden broom.
Wonderful is the bright heart of youth,
But with years it grows old.
Is the world not like these flowers?
Ruddy faces, how can they last?

translated  by Burton Watson

from Not Bowing to Old Age by Kuan Han-ch’ing

You can knock out my teeth and break my jaw.
You can cripple my legs and rip off my arms:
let heaven lay all these curses on me,
and I still won’t stop.
Except old Yama, the king of Hell
comes to call on me himself (and brings his fiends to fetch me),
when my soul turns to dirt,
and my animal shell falls straight into Hell,
then, and only then, I’ll quit this flowered path
I ramble on.

translated by J.P. Seaton

Beginning of Autumn: A Poem to Send to Tzu-yu by Su Tung-p’o

The hundred rivers day and night flow on,
we and all things following;
only the heart remains unmoved,
clutching the past.
I recall when we stayed at Huai-yüan Stop,
door shut against fall heat,
eating boiled greens, studying,
wiping away the sweat, you and I.
The west wind suddenly turned cold;
dried leaves blew in the window.
You got up for a heavier coat
and took hold of my hand:
We won’t be young for long–
I needn’t tell you.
Probably we’ll have to part,
hard to tell when success may come–
even then I felt a chill of sorrow,
and now when both of us are old–
too late to look for the Way.
This fall I began talks to buy some land;
if I build a house, it should be done by spring.
Nights at Snow Hall, in wind and rain,
already I hear you talking to me.

translated by Burton Watson

On the road to Ch’ang-an by Liu Yung

On the road to Ch’ang-an my horse goes slowly.
In the tall willows a confusion of cicada cries.
Slanting sun beyond the isles,
and winds of autumn on the plain. Only
where the heavens hang,
the view cut off.

The clouds go back, but
gone, they leave no track.
Where is the past?
Unused to indulgence, a little
wine’s no consolation.
It’s not
as it was
when I was young.

translated by J.P. Seaton

on calendars & time

the cleaning people
keep changing
the date
on my wall
I can do it
not a race
or a reminder
just courtesy
and I
too grateful
for their
always cheerful
cannot say
don’t rush
the passage
of time
for I
am not
to see it
slip away
quite so quickly
one day
at a time

Middle Years by Wang An-shih

Middle years devoted to the nation, I lived a fleeting dream,
and home again in old age, I wander borderland wilderness.

Looking south to green mountains, it’s clear I’m not so alone
here; on spring lakes, they crowd my little-boat life all adrift.

translated by David Hinton