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Sunday, May 27, 2018

On Dong Yang Creek - The Answer in a Moment's Passing

This is an exquisite little poem by Xie Ling Yun, a Chinese poet of the 4th century.  On the one hand, it's a simple folk song that tells the story of an encounter, or non-encounter, between a man and a woman along the banks of the Dong Yang River.  The first verse is sung by the man and the second verse is sung by the woman, which makes it easy to imagine this duet being performed by the 4th century equivalent of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  But the poem also invites another layer of meaning. Xie Ling Yun was a lifelong practicing Buddhist and the two verses together present a vivid image of life's ephemeral passage on the banks of Dong Yang Creek. 

How lovely on the riverbank
Whose wife do you suppose that is
So karma flows on as she
Washes silken clothes
The bright moon
In the midst of the clouds
Playing hide and seek
Just out of reach

How lovely on the passing barge
Whose husband do you suppose that is
So karma flows on as
He goes downriver
Take note of this feeling
As if it were real
The moon passes
Amidst the clouds waning




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