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The Sung Dynasty was from 960-1279 A.D.
Su Shi, Poet, 1036-1102 A. D.

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More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature

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Contributors

Chen Dong Dong

Chen Dong Dong






In 'Riding on Wine' Pavilion, Sitting Alone.
How Should We Read Ancient Poems



On the river mist locks in a solitary sail. Dawn enters the temple;
large red stones, damp, satiated,
like leaves the autumn frost has left stained.
The wind blows, a flower falls
like a robin nesting in the hands of shadows.
All this,
these were all his lines of poetry. During the Song dynasty
the sea fell and one saw mountain stones, an arid season,
city buildings in a pall of dust.

But I've passed through a night of heavy rain —
on the red stones,
green leaves like countless fish that were near death
soaked plump and new by the weather,
and at this moment tree bark is still rough, floating in the pond
unlike anything.
Looking across the river, the afternoon Riding on Wine Pavilion
sits silently clinging to the mountain;
in the midst of all this
I see a flock of fierce birds calling and ripping at the river's heart,
wings like knives.

We must have thoughts like knives too
in Riding on Wine Pavilion.
Su Shi's lines are of no more use.
I sit alone and begin to learn to use my own eyes
to see how high the mountain, how small the moon.

1985




A Horse in the Rain


In the dark you pick up a musical instrument that's handy. You sit serenely in the dark,
the sound of a horse comes from the far end.

A Horse in the Rain

This instrument is out of fashion, shining in spots
like the red freckles on a horse's nose, flashing
like the top of a tree.
The first blossoming of the cotton rose, startles a few thrushes into flight.

The horse in the rain too is doomed to gallop out of my memory
like the instrument in hand,
like a cotton rose opening in a warm fragrant night.
At the other end of the corridor
I sit sedately as if it has been raining all day.

l sit serenely like a flower that opens all night,
a horse in the rain. The horse in the rain too is doomed to gallop from my memory.
I've picked up the instrument
and softly play the song I'd like to sing.

1985




The Bus Comes out of the Mountains


The bus comes out of the mountains, the hot air rises —
did the years that grew in those black stones also have,
overlooking them,
a hawk, attracted by a snake
plunging straight into the sea?

Today this bus is far from flying birds. The driver has urgent business
and drives the bus, heaving like a river stag —
in those years when serpent-neck dragons traversed rivers, were there also
          vigilant eyes,
closely following their prey
waiting for a gun's report?

One night,
ahh, one entire night —
a whole night sitting serenely under a tree,
I will think back on the bus that appeared out of the mountains.

1985

Translated by Michael Day