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.