Reading this book of Chinese translations
I remember my distant friend.
A bamboo breeze drifts through my study.
Moonlight on the terraced temple shines again.
Climbing to those high places
sometimes you picked flowers
and, in the monastery, monks disliked our intrusion,
tried to put us off, speaking of one infected
who’d died last night in the visitor’s room.
Before the dawn the wooden clappers clacked
and in the shrine room I recall
the candles flickered along the wall
the golden images splendidly sat
there was no time at all in that
and now that all these years have flown
and after midnight I sit here alone
I see again the silvered lateen sails
that down the fishing moon’s track trailed
as silently they put to sea
below the hill that sprouted guns.
Wearily, I reflect, modern life
differs little from the time of Li Po.
I too seek my mountain cottage,
winter winds strike the oaks and birches,
the rushing stream gurgles past the muddy yard.
Wood fire burns low and by my candle
I read some far-off words.
This is no bamboo mountain
Yet, here too, the natural stillness
creeps from the stones and trees
as in my secret heart I discover
my lone home.
Thinking of you and the passing years
of war and waste, treaties broken
and pledges meaningless,
the rise in prices and the difficulty of travel,
passports and regulations,
I am comforted to know that old officials
in your ancient land also knew
the weariness of worldly noise,
that little changes in a thousand years
is proven true.
Time and space are endless
and only a fool finds a comfortable way.