Autumn Evening: To Send to My Nieces and Nephews by Ch’i-chi

Each year, come the late autumn evenings,
I sit by the lamp recalling my old home,
gardens and groves red with oranges and pomelos,
windows and doors blue with Hsiao and Hsiang waters.
But since I left you old age has come on,
I quail at the long road that parts us.
Brothers young and old, just so you’re well,
tending fields and silkworms amid these fires of war!

translated  by Burton Watson

like some weary traveler

I am like some weary traveler
in a hotel room
lost between the shower and the ice machine
with plans to come home
for the holidays
we would have coffee
a candle flickers on the table
your hands play with your spoon
I watch you brush the hair from your forehead
loosen the scarf at your neck
your eyes look beyond me
to some future that almost was
and I fade from the table
stranded on some stretch of highway
a long way from home



on the other side of the world: for Thanksgiving absent again

there are voices calling my name
on the other side of the world
an empty chair
a glass not filled with wine
dark meat with gravy
stuffing with mushrooms
and Robert’s famous meatballs and gravy
hot and sweet sausage
broccoli with garlic, lemon and oil
Johnny bought blueberry pie
only I’m not getting a piece
’cause I’m over here
on the other side of the world
quietly finishing a bottle of wine
trying not to think of your voice
the sorrow in the air
fresh flowers don’t quite kill the smell
of disappointment
another year gone by
that empty chair
that bottle of wine unopened
ice cream melting on a plate
Al Martino singing love songs
George serving salad
and you sliding food onto my plate
the cat under the table
my hand reaching across
grabbing nothing
grabbing air
on the other side
of the world


Mid-Autumn Moon by Su Tung-p’o

Six years the moon shone at mid-autumn;
five years it saw us parted.
I sing your farewell song;
sobs from those who sit with me.
The southern capital must be busy,
but you won’t let the occasion pass:
Hundred-league lake of melted silver,
thousand-foot towers in the pendant mirror–
at third watch, when the songs and flutes are stilled
and figures blur in the shade of trees,
you return to your north hall rooms,
cold light glinting on the dew of leaves;
calling for wine, you drink with your wife
and tell the children stories, thinking of me.
You have no way of knowing I’ve been sick,
that I face the pears and chestnuts, cup empty,
and stare east of the old riverbed
where buckwheat blossoms spread their snow.
I wanted to write a verse to your last year’s song
but I was afraid my heart would break.

translated by Burton Watson

A Sad Tune from the Music Bureau

I sing a sad song when I want to weep,
gaze far off when I want to go home.
I miss my old place.
Inside me, a dense mesh of grief.
But there’s no one to go back to,
no boat across that river.
The heart is bursting, but my tongue is dead.
My guts are twisting like a wagon wheel.

translated by Tony Barnstone & Chou Ping