I think I may have mentioned the neighbor's wood duck nestbox. I can see it from my bedroom window. At mid-morning this couple checked it out; two other pairs were lined up on a nearby branch in case they could get a chance at it. Because they take alarm when I open the back door I took my pictures through the window, which fortunately was washed two days ago. So who said that things don't work out well?? Not I!
I had pre-ordered the new Selected Translations of W. S. Merwin and it just came. I was planning to steer clear of Chinese as well as Bei Dao, but here is tonight's poem by the ancient Chinese poet Tu Fu. I wanted a springtime one, but, over the past hour, I kept coming back to this.
In the beginning, all I knew about Tu Fu and Li Po was that Diane had Tibetan Spaniels named after them. Robert Hass introduced us to this work in the first poetry class I took fron him at San Jose State. After we wrote one-line poems, we wrote two-line ones (Call & Response chant from Africa) and then three-line poems (haiku) and then four-line poems modeled on ones from ancient China. These lines were to be longer and more discursive (I think he said each line must have at least nine syllables) and attempt to capture the feeling-tone of this work. So in one short month, my life was transformed and I hace never been quite the same since! I love this stuff, its emphasis on the natural world, and it's quiet melancholy and beauty. Oh, enough description! Here is the poem, from page 20 of the new Merwin translations.
AUTUMN NIGHT [Tu Fu, Eight Century)
The dew falls, the sky is a long way up, the brimming waters are quiet.
On the empty mountain in the companionless night doubtless the wandering spirits are stirring
Alone in the distance the ship's lantern lights up one motionless sail.
The new moon is moored to the sky, the sound of the beetles comes to an end.
The chrysanthemums have flowered, men are lulling their sorrows to sleep.
Step by step along the veranda, propped on my stick, i keep my eyes on the Great Bear.
In the distance the celestial river leads to the town.