Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Pearl Has Vanished

—Yuan Mei (1716-1797)

I walked by chance
Into the western courtyard.
There I saw
A single orchid
Newly blown.

Who will spread
The tidings?
What bee
Will learn the secret first
And hasten
To the spot?


—Yü Hsüan Chi (844-871)

Among the pale-pink blossoms
Of the peach
I see again your lovely face,
And in the wind-stirred leaves
Of the willow trees
Is the curve
Of your slender brow.

The sun sinks slowly
In the western hills
And the moon climbs
The eastern sky.

The pearl has vanished
In the dragon's cave
And leaves no trace behind.


—Yü Hsüan Chi

Priest robes
Cut from finest silk,
As the sunset glow.
Great clouds of incense
From behind curtains
Of bright brocade.

Hibiscus blossooms
And leaves;
The slender trickle
Of a mountain stream.

Listen to the oriole's songs.
Open wide the cage
And let the crane fly free.

Sleep overtaking me
In the great hall;
Rain at nightfall,
Then sleet and snow.


—Yü Hsüan Chi

Red peach blossoms
And all the colors
Of spring
Are everywhere.

On each house
The moon shines down
Through the leaves
Of the willow trees.

Adorned and robed
Some sit in their halls,
Awaiting the coming
Of night.
Some sit apart
In the women's court,
Dreaming sweet dreams
Of love.

In the pool
Beneath the hibiscus leaves,
The fishes dart and play;
A rainbow arches the heavens;
Sparrows twitter and call.

In this world
Both sorrow and joy
Are dreams.
If mingled,
Would they be more?


Yü Hsüan Chi was a famous poetess of the T'ang dynasty in China. She became the concubine of the famous Li I, but was driven out by his wife, so she sought refuge in Taoism and entered a convent. The last years of her life are veiled in obscurity, but at the end, accused of murdering a serving maid, she was condemned and beheaded when only twenty-seven years old.

Today's poems are translated from the Chinese by Henry H. Hart in A Garden of Peonies, Stanford University Press, 1938.


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events, to (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.) For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press (

SnakeWatch: Up-to-the-minute Snake news:

Chapbooks/readings: The Snake returns with a bang on Wednesday, September 12, presenting Susan Kelly-DeWitt's new chapbook, Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree, at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. See the online journal, Mudlark, for a hefty sample of poems from her book; that’s And read more about Susan at her nifty new website, Click on "Chapbooks" for a sneak preview of Cassiopeia's cover.

Also coming September 12: The new issue of Rattlesnake Review (15), plus a littlesnake broadside from dawn dibartolo (Blush), and a continuation of B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series—including #4 (frank andrick). Next deadline for Rattlesnake Review (16) is November 15.