Sunday, December 11, 2005

after evening make-up

after evening make-up

soon after
the evening make-up
some rouge smeared
tip of the tongue unfolds
her mouth like a cherry
nearly silently chanting
gentlest of songs

crimson prints left
to the cup’s rim,
splashes of wine
redden her sleeve,
this heavenly nymph
lounges against
the embroidered bed

she chews a red thread
and coyly spits it in
her lover’s direction

in winter’s depth

sun high in the sky
but on earth we’re still frozen

I add to the brazier
carbon shaped like a beast

dance steps have wrinkled
the red brocade mat

anything to keep warm
I bend to pick up gold pins

I’ve dropped. I take a flower
and sniff. Music of bamboo

from palaces elsewhere
the beast in the fire is ash

beauty waking

on the fairies’ hill
a painted hall
and in it
beauty sleeps
and in it
is a kind
of speech

clouds of hair
on a pillow like cloud
embroidered cloth
steeped in scent

I sneak in
but she wakes
from the dream

from behind
the silver and gilt
of the screen
smile of the eyes
takes me in

orioles depart with joy

and the twilight sloughs
clouds dissolve in sunshine

wake from a dream
of fragrant grass
the wild geese scattered
as their cries

the chanting orioles disperse
last petals fall like rain

a desolation in the painted hall
waiting for her return


flowers in the backyard

rare trees grow behind the house
and finer foliage by the mirror
I’ve placed there…

…flowers bloom as years before
the moon as round as ever

the air rings green with light
the voice is vanishing

picking mulberries

red flowers by the temple
all faded to dust
where are the light steps
of Spring?

frowning brows
and free flowing locks

loneliness has its boudoir
waits for the incense ash to drop

what is unbearable must be borne
she sleeps on a stone pillow of facts

reckless he comes
into her dreams

picking mulberries

evening envelops
pulley tackle, gold well, parasol trees

autumn breeze startles
the trees from their doze

old rain with new grief

over the hook
the bamboo screen hitched

beside the jade window
she sits frowning
on the far frontier

if only a carp
would carry him
her missive

if only the river
would wind upstream

crows crying at night

last night the wind
blew with the rain

autumn came moaning
through curtains

candles wept
the water clock grew weary

tossing about on the pillow
I rose and couldn’t sleep again

mundane affairs
float away with the stream

how, without wine
could we live?

crows crying at night

spring flowers floated
away too soon

too soon the Spring
has fled

cold rain at sunrise
chill wind in the twilight

rouged tears
and my drunken state

when will we two meet again?

life is a river run east
always east

Spring always
gone too soon

past dusk in the attic

candles have burnt out
one by one
fallen weeds won’t rest

in a dream
I followed footprints
back to the far distant past

the faces were horrible there

in a pavilion beside the river
I watch the ever onward tide

dusk in the attic
twilight among shaded flowers

my soul climbs the mountain
tears fall for my country
so far away

the past is much nearer

green of Spring

the wind returns
casts new green on the grass
willows shoot with the coming of Spring

I lean on the balustrade wordless with longing
bamboo and new moon just as in spent days

tune of the reed pipes yet
fine wine still in these cups

now the surface of the pond starts to thaw
bright the candles and giddy the incense

frost like hair on my temples drips
green of Spring

sand of the silk-washing stream

moss grows over this wind
autumn steps down to the river
the jade curtain hangs

gold swords have been buried
ambition is done

a moon blooms over attic
and palace

how dreary the shadows
the river casts in

willows in Spring

soft spring rain
through the curtains of willow
ticktock of the water clock
wounding that night

startling wild geese
crows on the gate tower
the lady in her lonely bed
starting too

a fragrant mist
thin glimmer of the candle’s last

here comes the hero
from the embroidery
dazzled by life

unwittingly he slips
into my dream
I hold him till
we have spent
the whole night

Saturday, December 03, 2005


our forty years

our forty years

of rivers and mountains

the dragon’s tower

the phoenix in the attic

came down after

a chat up there

in the mist

trees of emerald

once the immortals

were with us alive

I was ignorant

of war

made a better

exile than king

look how thin

how grey

my words now

are you moved?

no court ladies cry

these thousand years since

but a ghost can still

taste his poison


the season half gone

Spring parts from itself

in the time since we’ve parted

the falling plum blossoms

come whirling like snow

I brush them away

but I’m covered again

wild geese bring me no tidings

parting is like the rich Spring grass

even in dreams

my country too far


longing for the south

it’s an idle dream

grass, flowers thrive

the south is far

but the whole country

can hear the orchestra

choke in the dust

of dreamers

in their carriages

come out to view

flowers of Spring


the south – late autumn

in its dream

cold shrouds the mountains, rivers

a lonely rowboat

anchors in reeds

whistling from the tower’s top

to lure the moon along


longing for the southern Spring

the carriages run like water there

in the imperial garden

horses are like dragons there

the flowers and moon of Spring


o my tears

when weeping

stay away from

the phoenix’ flute

it’s a sure route

to a broken heart


no return


I climb the western tower

the moon comes

like a hook

parasol trees

in the deep courtyard

where clear autumn

is kept

no cutting

the ravelled knot

of parting

holds my soul



moonlight tortures the exile’s soul


recalling one’s country

when the moon is full

and ways are lit

then one might

travel the long chill night

to find

jade balustrades

carved halls

still stand

but the rosy visage

of a childhood


spring flowers

and autumn moon


but never

the ones we knew


the unwilling guest

beyond the curtain of the rain

Spring hastens its steps departing

silk quilt too warm now summer’s come

the soul in its icy dawn remains

as in a dream

eyes newly old

scan boundless lands

no longer mine

from this balcony

so far from heaven


in my dream

life was never

proof against woe

my soul is gnawed

with unwept tears

in my dream

I return to my country

not to war

not to rule

not to be king again

will you mount

to the tower

with me

just this once more?

there never was finer

than this autumn day

Saturday, November 26, 2005

first twenty poems


her hair
mauve cloud
coiled bun
jade pinned

frowning brows
she wears

autumn wind on
drizzle out doors

plantain trees tall
too long night
out there


faroff mountains
layered away

mist on the lake’s
chill surface

leaves on the maple
crimson the heart

chrysanthemums bloom
and are gone

ganders stay
until their wings take them

past curtains
merest breeze, just the moon

spring in the jade pavilion

evening makes up
snow white faces
a file of young beauties
in the Spring palace
reed pipes, bamboo flutes
float on the air

who sprinkles the fragrance
into this breeze? Drunkenly
knocking at rails I’m steeped
in sentiments no light admits

therefore the candles stay unlit
clip clop of the moonlight
brings me home

song of the water clock at night

gold pin
rosy cheeks
a rendezvous
just heaven knew

fragrant wick
and weeping candle
a picture of our moods

tears moisten the embroidered pillow
blanket cold as night is deep
the water clock falls still

dream of Spring

over the strings the fingers
over the reed pipe breath
through the frosty bamboo
these purer than words

glance sidelong of the lovers parting

the house inside the rain
the banquet in the house
in Spring a dream
and yearning lingers

music brings me
winter’s dream –


gorgeous flowers
dim moonlight
thin mist

a stockinged tiptoe
to their tryst

he, in the south end
of the Painting Hall

she, into his arms
come trembling

how troublesome to meet
in shadows
how tender the moment
of hearts lit within

first of Spring

first of Spring
for pleasure

what floats in a cup of wine?
the flower

let us not whisper
of withering

it’s Spring – let’s drink to it
you beat the drum

I’ll bring the brush and ink

a fisherman

waves roll into snow
mute peaches make Spring

a pot of wine
a fishing pole

a mist
my vanishing

one oar
one boat

one line
one hook

flowers all over the isle

a full vessel

let me be

let me be

insects fond of flowers

I rambled by the riverside
mourning last of Spring

dark winds drowned the drizzle
and the lamps of Qing Ming

a night wrecked?
I won’t say so
the fat lady may sing

peaches and plums
whisper with laughter

moon in its cloud
comes to bed after

Spring met in mist

shy to meet Spring
now that youth’s passed
I was as shy before

bygones have gone by
grass grown over flowers
mist lies deep over all

beating clothes

sleepless in unending night
the empty hall falls to echoes

through a bamboo curtain
hear winter’s chill

not a frog sounds
but the mind won’t be still

another, sleepless
rises early
wakes the house

does to his clothes
what she dare not
do to the man

waking from a night alone

hair messy
make-up faded
brows frown like the far-away peaks

against the balustrade
delicate fingers
and touching the cheeks

how far tears fall

waking for a piss in the early hours

the palace sleeps

I put on a gown
for the moonlight

stood among the chill bamboo
here’s me – miniature landscape

waterfall of my own making
eyes high in the forest of leaves

seek a star

love lost and passion enduring

I cannot see the girl with the flute
but I know how it is to lie in her arms

flowers bow and lift their heads
in fits the scent of her skin comes to me

twilight in the jewelled glass
willows cast shadows night won’t dispel

it is a cruel breeze brings her to me
our moment in mind’s bubble yet

hung over

cherry blossoms strew the yard
an ivory bed cast in moonlight

hair loosed lustreless
bitterest yearning

tears fall on scant garments of love
so many papers to sign

after one of those endless imperial parties

the guests went home
the painted hall still hung
with its breezes
all the long night

Spring still
one girl waits in the attic
dozing when she’s not required

mirror and make-up both at the ready
still tipsy when the first birds wake her
when comes the whistling
of workmen outside

footsteps of Spring

the footsteps of Spring
are falling away
the long night of blossoms
endures through your sleep

I stayed awake
to outstare this spray
of cherries, to wait
for the light,
for your waking
for withering day

first intimation of winter

autumn too wearies
steps come crimson strewn
herbs from the high hills
fill up the temple
the Double Ninth arrives

and in the yard’s doorway
where kitchen smoke
contends with drizzle

wild geese fly by
only their lament
deathless, unchanging

ennui of Spring

jade pendants dishevelled
make-up marred, messy bun
I hold the stairs up leaning
just me and the scenery
two shadows lament

an easterly wind over the river runs
sun devouring the crests left of hills
Spring’s ennui – all fallen flowers
I wander in among reeds sounding
I can’t go on drinking like this

mourning for the season passed

every petal’s fallen
Spring’s once firm footing’s lost

those butterflies made pretty pairs
a cliché now and spent

the birds who sang
as smoke dispersed

from hazy grasslands
the traveller into sun and drought
casts a fond eye back