"Peach Blossoms," "Letter Smuggled in a Fish," and "When We Are Apart," by Yuan Chen, copyright © 2000 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted from Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated and introduced by Sam Hamill.

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Feature on Hamill's translations.
Yuan Chen (779-831)


Peach Blossoms

Infinite peach-blossom shades,
her rouged and powdered cheeks.

Spring breezes help her break my heart,
blowing peach petals from her dress.


Letter Smuggled in a Fish

Your letter unfolds and unfolds forever.
I flatten it with my hands to read:

tearstains, tearstains and a trace of rouge
where it must have touched your cheek


When We Are Apart

I’ve seen the sea—how could I settle for a river?
There are no other clouds after you’ve seen Mount Wu.

These elegant gardens don’t move me now—
because of my discipline. Because of you.