Late in the Day, Gazing Out from a River Pavilion by Chia Tao

Water to the horizon
veils the base of clouds;
mountain mist
blurs the far village.

Returning to nest, birds
make tracks in the sand;
passing on the river, a boat
leaves no trace on the waves.

I gaze at the water
and know its gentle nature;
watch the mountains
until my spirit tires.

Though not yet ready
to leave off musing,
dusk falls,
and I return by horse.

translated by Mike O’Connor

Farewell to Monk Chih-hsinmg by Chia Tao

You have lived a long time
at Pa-hsing Temple;
retired, you’re preparing
only now to leave.

On the verge of parting, we look
out upon the bright water of autumn;
you’re not returning to your hometown
nor to the countryside near it.

You will hang your Buddhist staff in a tree
where the sky reaches to a watery horizon;
where the door-leaf of your hut
opens on great mountains.

Below, you will see dawn
a thousand li away;
a miniature sun
born of a cold white sea.

translated by Mike O’Connor

Morning Travel by Chia Tao

Rising early
to begin the journey;
not a sound
from the chickens next door.

Beneath the lamp,
I part from the innkeeper;
on the road, my skinny horse
moves through the dark.

Slipping on stones
newly frosted,
threading through woods,
we scare up birds roosting.

After a bell tolls
far in the mountains,
the colors of daybreak
gradually clear.

translated by Mike O’Connor

Winter Night Farewell by Chia Tao

At first light, you ride
swiftly over the village bridge;

Plum blossoms fall
on the stream and unmelted snow.

With the days short and the weather cold,
it’s sad to see a guest depart;

The Ch’u Mountains are boundless,
and the road, remote.

translated by Mike O’Connor

While Traveling byChia Tao

With so much on my mind,
it’s hard to express myself in letters.

How long has it been since I left home?
Old friends are no longer young.

Frosted leaves fall into empty bird nests;
river fireflies weave through open windows.

I stop at a forest monk’s,
and spend the night in “quiet sitting.”

translated by Mike O’Connor

Sick Cicada by Chia Tao

A sick cicada, unable now to fly,
Walks over onto my palm.
Its broken wing can still grow thinner.
And its bitter songs are clear as ever.
Dewdrops stick on its belly,
Dust specks fallen by mischance in its eyes.
The oriole and the kite as well
Both harbor the thought of your ruin.

translated by Stephen Owen

Evening View as the Snow Clears by Chia Tao

I lean on my staff, gaze at the sunlit snow,
Clouds and gullies in countless layers.
The woodcutter returns to his plain hut,
As the winter sun falls behind sheer peaks.
A wildfire burns over the grass of the hills;
Broken patches of mist rise from among the rocks and pines.
Then, turning back on the mountain temple road,
I hear the bells ring in the evening sky.

translated by Stephen Owen