To A Traveler by Su Tung P’o

Last year when I accompanied you
As far as the Yang Chou Gate,
The snow was flying, like white willow cotton.
This year, Spring has come again,
And the willow cotton is like snow.
But you have not come back.
Alone before the open window,
I raise my wine cup to the shining moon.
The wind, moist with evening dew,
Blows the gauze curtains.
Maybe Chang-O the moon goddess,
Will pity this single swallow
And join us together with a cord of light
That reaches beneath the painted eaves of your home.

translated by Kenneth Rexroth

To Li Po At The Sky’s End by Tu Fu

A cold wind blows from the far sky. . .
What are you thinking of, old friend?
The wild geese never answer me.
Rivers and lakes are flooded with rain.
. . .A poet should beware of prosperity,
Yet demons can haunt a wanderer.
Ask an unhappy ghost, throw poems to him
Where he drowned himself in the Mi-lo River.

translated by Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu

things of value: for Steve

we both have said
at various times in our lives
there were things of value
and the trick was knowing
just which things they were
and so we find
old friend
the things we leave behind
are not always what we discard
but grow instead
in our hearts
stronger than before
if that were even possible
and sight
old friend
is not always done with our eyes
the heart sees better
and years do not dim it
so as our bodies fumble
in the dark
our breath grows shorter
the arms no longer able to carry
the weight they once held
we still
old friend
remain connected
ten thousand miles
cannot break that bond
too many decades have come and gone
too many miles traveled together
up and down and across
two continents
we closed too many restaurants
watched fireworks over two oceans
driven or rode or flown
over too much territory
climbed a glacier
stood on mountains
seen our share of whales
there have been too many crabs eaten
too much wine drunk
too many glasses of brandy shared
and so much trouble
we talked our way into
and out of
over these many, many years
Bill Mohr once said
seeing us together for the first time
as you helped me assemble a gas barbecue
in my backyard
that he understood why
we were such good friends
more like brothers
your father called us a vaudeville team
and we did routines
to amuse ourselves
more than anyone else
in countless states
in foreign countries
and though I know your eyes
my eyes
have watered of late
these thousands of miles
these long years now
keeping us from laughing
at our own jokes
rest assured
old friend
our vaudeville days are not over
and since you can no longer
make the trip alone
I promise
old friend
I’ll be there yet
one morning

the crack in my heart: for ZW

for the first time
in many years
I heard sorrow in your voice
the other night
as you said you wished
I was there
but more than miles separate us now
there are those years
and the hurt
we both inflicted
if only you spoke that way
before I left
maybe I would still be there
but now the only sound louder
than the pain in your voice
is the crack
my heart made
in my chest