Saturday, March 15, 2014

White and Green; Two Poems by Wang Wei

Sketching Things

Slender clouds. On the pavilion a small rain.
Noon. But I'm too lazy to open the far cloister.
I sit looking at moss so green
my clothes are soaked with color.

A White Turtle Under a Waterfall

The waterfall on South Mountain hits the rocks,
tosses back its foam with terrifying thunder,
blotting out even face-to-face talk.
Collapsing water and bouncing foam soak blue moss.
old moss so thick
it drowns the spring grass.
Animals are hushed.
Birds fly but don't sing
yet a white turtle plays on the pool's sand floor under riotous spray,
sliding about with the torrents.
The people of the land are benevolent.
No angling or net fishing.
The white turtle lives out its life, naturally.

From The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry; translated bu Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping,
Random House, 2005, pages 111 and 105. (Wang Wei's poems in this book were translated by Tony Barnstone, with his father, Willis Barnstone and Xu Haixin.) I got this poem when Tony and Willis gave a reading in San Jose for the Poetry Center. Tony wrote inside, "The Buddha of poetry says, Enjoy! All Best, Tony Barnstone."

Whenever I look at the poems by Wang Wei (701-761, that's a looong time ago!) my head and heart grow quiet and still. I know there are no white turtles or green moss in the accompanying photo, and the sun flare is not quite quiet and still enough. But somehow I liked this combination. Note the variation in line lengths in the presentation of the translation of this poem. Read it out loud, softly.

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