Thursday, May 14, 2009


In early days, I loved to watch the sky,
   Imagining it was a natural chart:
   The blue was oceans, while the clouds, apart,
   Were continents or islands to my eye.
The darker shades on land were mountains high,
   The holes were lakes the cracks were rivers smart,
   And there were bays whence vessels did depart
   New lands to find that on the seas might lie.
But there has come a sea change, as they say:
Where flowers have bloomed, tobacco grows today.
   So many years a lost sheep have I been,
My body covered all in ashes gray.
Oh, luckily, the clouds and skies shall stay;
   I’ll raise my head and watch the blessed scene.

A Throw

All lonely on a slope of a hill
I saw you there, oh, little child
Walking and singing at will.
From time to time in rancor wild
You would pick up a little stone
Which then was to the valley thrown.

Perhaps there was a man of late,
Not long ago, oh, little child
(By neither love possessed nor hate)
Who once had picked you up then smiled
And next, just like a little stone,
Onto this planet you were thrown.


In autumn, I always get the impression
Of losing something around me,
Which makes me feel more lonely: it is my shadow.
Yes, lost in the open country south of Yangtze River
Although a little on the skinny side, you know, it is
Always the one to hang out with you at sunset.

Now the nights are cold, look, on the wall by the fireside
there is a shadow keeping my company while I sit in silence:
also speechless, also lowering its head, knowing its own self after all!
Although a little dizzy, I think
It comes because you have dispatched it in secret, from far away
From far-far away it comes to this old town.
I also think of sending this shadow to you,
But I’m not sure already: where you are.

Long is

Long is the tilted slender shadow of
A withered tree, so is the shadow of
An old man walking under it, and too
That of an old man with a stick in hand,
All on the wall, red wall in evening glow
The wall is long as well, blue sky beyond,
The northern sky is also long, oh, long.
Yo, there! old men, you surely think this road
Is long, this winter day then do you think
Is also long? Yes, so do I believe.
Look, I have also come up closer now,
It would be nice to have a chat, a chat.
A single word we haven’t spoken though,
But trailing his own shadow each of us
Is walking, walking…

A Record

High time the lights were turned now on again.
Having drunk a mouthful of the moonlight dim,
As if waking up, I stretch my lazy waist.
I have shaken off the daydream’s anguish grim.

From afar a cry is coming: “Evening news!”
What a shock, it nearly sends me off my feet,
I begin to read the white and wrinkled pages:
Come on, that’s a record of my day complete!

A Monk

The bell of a day has struck another one,
   A monk’s been seized by a deep and listless dream:
   The shadows of the years gone by now seem
A puff of incense smoke that has begun
   To spin and ‘round some shrine’s debris has spun,
   Those bones that in the incense burner gleam,
   With faithful people wade in sorrows’ stream,
Ill will, through Buddhist scrolls, long since undone.

He’s richly spurting dusky words in sleep,
The head and wooden fish the rhythm keep,
   Both just as void and heavy all the way;
They lull the rivers wide and mountains steep,
Which hypnotized repose in slumber deep,
   Again he strikes a death knell of a day.

Middle of a Street Deep at Night

                                                      – recalling a dream

He was wandering alone
Along the middle of a street deep at night,
The middle of the street spoke to him gently:

“I most hate
Frivolous motor-car wheels
One sweep
And I am left with two scars;

“I most love
Camels that can endure much
One stroke
And I get quite a lot of flowers, and big.

“But you,
deep at night
you roam disorderly
with steps neither light nor heavy
trampling down my sleep.”
He spoke not a single word.

A stretch of white sand
Rose gently
Helping him out


I have, as if, walked out, a dear old friend to see.
I push the door that leads into a little room.
Oh what a stink of mildew! Ah, that cannot be!
An almost empty oil lamp on the desk in gloom,
Before the lamp, my friend, his head propped up ,while he
Says nothing though he must have seen me I presume.
How strange! Why am I shivering so fervently?

Oh, look, just look how damp the floor is everywhere,
Like sweat it runs along the grouts, monstrosity!
Oh, look, just look at all those stinky walls that loom
With thick green layers of the stuff that’s clung to them,
It is no paper, it's all mildew there, abloom.
So thick and green, it’s everywhere, surrounding me.

(Ah, I am wrapped all over now in tepid brume!)

On a Cold Night

A flash of fire. A gleam of starry light.
   Old Chen is raising up a cup of tea,
And near him sits Old Zhang, both share the night.
Zhang smokes a cigarrete just vis-à-vis;
   Old Chen has drained his cup with much delight.
And all the time (with half-closed eyelids) they
Observe the smoke that hovers near the ground
   It fades, (as if a little drunk, you’d say)
They watch the coals, which burn with a hissing sound,
And a yellow blaze… how drowsy they’ve become?
   So heavy-eyed, so tired… Asleep? – not quite.
Take note! Where may this noise be coming from?
They listen for a while or two aghast.
   A rustle, someone’s in the yard alright
And running there: “It’s snowing thick and fast!”

An Idler

The sun is slanting down towards south-west,
An idler puts one hand behind his back.
Beside the road, with heavy steps or light,
He treads on gentle sand, his pace is slack.

The footprints on the sand are not so few,
Some long, some short or pointed, on they go;
Here someone must have followed someone else;
He doesn’t care, his head bent low, so low.

A-ha! Look what he’s holding in his hand:
Two walnuts and each shining like a gem,
Ever chafing, rubbing, grinding, crunching…
Oh! for how long has he been smoothing them?