Featured Post

The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Poem for Halloween

The squirrels are
More reckless this time of year
Frantic in their industry
Throwing themselves readily
In harm's way

And what about
Our own demons
Will we finally cast them out tonight
Or as soon as the doorbell rings
Will we welcome them back
And lavish their costumes 
With praise

Saturday, October 28, 2017

In the House of the 8-1/2th Moon (2 poems by Li He)

The Tang poet Li He wrote a series of twelve poems, one for each full moon of the year.  Last night there was a half moon, which marks our progress between the 8th and 9th moons of the year, at least according to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar.  So here are my translations of the two poems from Li He's series to help anchor us better in the present moment.

The Eighth Moon

The widow weeps
Long into the night

A lonely traveler
Dreams of returning home

Under the eaves
A spider spins its thread

From the hanging basket
Flowers cascade down

Just beyond the eaves
Moonlight splatters the ground

The trees cast their slanting shadows
Upon the window screen

The dew saturates the air
And settles everywhere

Decorating the pond with heavy
Drops atop the lotus leaves



孀妾怨长夜     独客梦归家
傍檐虫缉丝     向壁灯垂花
檐外月光吐     帘中树影斜
悠悠飞露姿     点缀池中荷

The Ninth Moon

The summer pavilion is empty now
But for a few stray fireflies
The sky has a watery hue

The bamboo yellows
And the lotus withers
In the pond’s chill depth

The moonlight will embroider everything
As it falls like a blessing

On the chill park and courtyard below
So tranquil, empty and pure

The frost dispersed by the wind
Shines like a lattice haphazardly
Strewn across the grass

Nature’s most elaborate and colorful
Brocade lies in thick layers underfoot

Not even a rooster will cry
To greet the dawn
Only stone pendants tinkling

And then the crows
Will caw loudly
As the golden leaves
From the Paulownia tree
Keep falling to the ground



离宫散萤天似水     竹黄池冷芙蓉死
月缀金铺光脉脉     凉苑虚庭空澹白
霜花飞飞风草草     翠锦斓斑满层道
鸡人罢唱晓珑璁     鸦啼金井下疏桐


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I Am the Poem Come Alive

I am the signifier
When it's begun to wobble
Embracing all ten thousand meanings
Under the broad blue sky

I am the dipthong
And the glottal
Along with all the silence
Left behind

I am the road less traveled
And the one well trod
Unforked and recombined
Where opposites
Roost side by side
To the consternation
And delight of the sages
Of days gone by

I am the poem come alive

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Adrift in Twilight (Wang Wei)

An autumn evening can be unsurpassed in its tranquility.  This is something that the great Tang poets knew for certain, and they left us with many excellent poems bearing witness to the fact.  Here is a poem I translated this morning by one of my favorites - Wang Wei.  We all know how it works.  An October afternoon such as today, brilliant as it is, will begin to fade away that much sooner, and twilight moves forward correspondingly.  The net effect is that we are gently lulled into submission to the advance of darkness by a few inches every day.

The autumn sky
Is suffused with clarity

Once more far distant
The human world recedes

Calm and unhurried
A crane stands
By the sand’s edge

The clouds wrapped twice
Around the mountain

The ripples subside slowly
Stilled at twilight’s request

A spotless moon has
Idly ascended into place

In the night alone
I take up my paddle

Hesitant to go further
Much less return


秋空自明迥      况复
以沙     兼之云外山
澄波淡将夕      清月皓方
此夜任孤棹     夷犹殊未