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