Sunday, January 3, 2016


two poems

the first

white night: the moon slacks its bowstring—
lamp wick burning low: halfway to sleep

roaring in the mountains: deer are unsettled—
scattering leaves alarm the cicadas

a passing memory: the taste of minced bream—
a longing for a boat in the falling snow

outlandish songs ravage the rising stars:
here at the sky’s edge, sleep deserts me

the second

at the town wall, dusk: a mournful reed whistle—
the village graveyard: birds seldom fly over

soldiers in armor, year upon endless year—
corvée discharged, men return deep in the night

the dark tree holds firm among fallen rocks—
Bright River utterly astounds the border garrison

the Dipper tilts: men look look still further—
slender moon: the magpies do not take flight

Jack Hayes 

© 2016
based on Du Fu:
夜 二首 yè er shǒu

* "Bright River"
明河 is a Chinese term for the Milky Way. Because the light it emits is crucial to the poem, it doesn't work to translate it as "Milky Way" or "galaxy"; those don't create the same "brightness". 

Acknowledgment: Sheila Graham-Smith for her major contributions in research & editing

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
“The Dunhuang star map of 700 AD. British Library Or.8210/S.3326 Ursa Major, Sagittarius and Capricornus are recognizable. The three colors (white, black and yellow) indicate the schools of astronomy of Shih Shen, Kan Te, and Wu Hsien.”
Public Domain

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