Tag Archives: music

The Barrier Keeper

LOVE

The Barrier Keeper

For you the music is a stillness. Only what is still
Can walk the two roads. Here is your list

Of things to pack: did you forget the water?
Forget comfort? Forget profit and loss which rub

Against each other behind a tree? There’s a fire
In the woods between the roads. Forgetting

How to run you run without pain. The words
In these lines are here as guests and if you do

Not forget them they will have failed
Like guests who stay too long.

Along one road I found Chuang Tzu’s skull.
I only remember because I wrote what it said:

The ukulele and violin have traded hands.
The nine ordinary openings are closed

And the owl guards the dead rat.
This daughter exists because of what you

Didn’t do. Tell her this: As you play
Your fingers change as things change

And you forget them, and there is music.

Night [after and for Mei Yao-ch’en]

NIGHT

日從東溟轉, 夜向西海沉.

The unhurried day drizzles, turns
westward and sinks beneath the sea.

羣物各已息, 衆星燦然森.

All things hold their breath, the stars
just right, glorious like the forest.

蝦蟇將食月, 魑魅爭出陰.

The toad on the moon eats,
the demons strive to come out of the clouds.

阮籍獨不寐, 徘徊起彈琴.

The city dozed fitfully, alone, hesitated,
then rose and picked up its instrument.

 

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[Note: This is a first draft of a work based on a poem of Mei Yao-ch’en (1002-1060), about whom I have written many poems on this blog. As with the previous poem I shared, this will likely change greatly from its current state to a final accurate version more worthy of being called a translation. The method I’m following is unusual but feels most natural for me — To write an impression of the poem gathered into my own poem in English, and then to continue to write a poem in English, and another, with the hope that each one gets closer and closer to my friend Sheng-yu’s poem in its traditional Chinese characters, till they are at least close enough to nod at each other or share a bottle of wine.  Chen Zhang, who is busy at Harvard finishing her dissertation while teaching as the Chinese Literary Preceptor up there in Cambridge, furnished me with the traditional characters for Mei’s  poem. I will keep you updated on any new versions. ]