Wednesday, June 19, 2013

With What Bird's Wings?

—Photo by D. R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Tu Fu (712-770 A.D.)

In the second month, sleeping a lot, all sleepy and dazed,
Are the nights not shorter?—asleep at midday.
With warm air of plum blossoms, eyes grow drunk,
At sun's set by the spring sandbar, dreams lead one away.
The gate and path to my old home lie beneath brambles and thorns,
Ruler and officials in the Central Plains lie by wolves and tigers.
When, when, may one attend to farming, the fighting ended.
And the whole world be without officials seeking money?

(trans. from the Chinese by Vikram Seth)


—Tu Fu

In Fuzhou, far away, my wife is watching
The moon alone tonight, and my thoughts fill
With sadness for my children, who can't think
Of me here in Changan; they're too young still.
Her cloud-soft hair is moist with fragrant mist.
In the clear light her white arms sense the chill.
When will we feel the moonlight dry our tears,
Leaning together on our window-sill?

(trans. by Eva Shan Chou)


—Tu Fu

Slender grasses,
A breeze on the riverbank,
The tall mast
Of my boat alone in the night.

Stars hang
All across a vast plain.
The moon leaps 
In the Great River's flow.

My writing
Has not made a name for me,
And now, due to age and illness,
I must quit my official post.

Floating on the wind,
What do I resemble?
A solitary gull
Between the heavens and the earth.

(trans. by Grey Whincup)

Duxbury Reef
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Tu Fu

Pony Boy     though it's spring we're still apart
oriole songs     in the warmth are at their fullest
separation     seasonal change upsets me
quick and clever     who chatters with you now
a canyon stream     a road in the empty mountains
a rough gate     a village among old trees
I think of you     I grieve and almost sleep
toasting my back     I lean on the sunny rail

(trans. by David Lattimore)


—Tu Fu

Death at least gives separation repose.
Withough death, its grief can only sharpen.
You wander out in malarial southlands,
and I hear nothing of you, exiled

old friend. Knowing I think of you
always now, you visit my dreams, my heart
frightened, it is no living spirit
I dream. Endless miles—you come

so far from the Yangtze's sunlit maples
night shrouds the passes when you return.
And snared as you are in their net,
with what bird's wings could you fly?

Filling my room to the roof-beams, the moon
sinks. You nearly linger in its light,
but the waters deepen in long swells,
unfed dragons—take good care old friend.

(trans. by David Hinton)


Heads up! We just got word that frank andrick and Josh Fernandez will be reading tonight at the Nevada County Poetry Series at 7:30pm in the Center for the Arts (Granucci Rm.), 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley. $5 general, $1 under 18. Open mic too! Host: Bill Gainer. For info, see

Tomorrow (Thurs., June 20) will be action-packed with poetry readings in our area, including Third Thursdays at the Central Library at noon and, in the evening, Keynote Poetry Series with Shawn Aveningo, Emmanuel Sigauke and Dafina Everhart; Poetry Unplugged with Las Hermanas/Sister Souls JoAnn Anglin, Graciela Ramirez and Luz Marie Gamma; and (in case you missed them at Sac. Poetry Center on Monday) the Squaw Valley Review readers at the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis (not to be confused with the Squaw Valley Benefit Reading at Crocker Art Museum on Friday). Scroll down to the blue box at the right of this column for details!

And in case you missed Sharon Olds on Capital Public Radio yesterday, go to


Today's LittleNip:


it's quiet in the house so quiet
outside the snowstorm wails
the dogs curl up noses under their tails
my little son sleeps on his back
his mouth open
his belly rises and falls
is it strange if I cry for joy

(trans. from the Inuit by Stephen Berg)



The Conversation
—Photo by D.R. Wagner