Thursday, September 18, 2014

"But also for the earth you stand on"

Today's splendid brief visitor, who pauses, just for a moment, to look in my direction.

To the Oak

If I love you
I won't imitate the morning glory
Borrowing your high branches to display myself
If I love you
I won't imitate those infatuated birds
Who repeat their monotonous flattery to the foliage,
Nor the fountain
With its solace of cool waters;
I won't even be those background vistas
That serve to make you more majestic.
Not even sunshine,
Not even spring rain,
No, none of these!
I would like to be a kapok tree
Standing beside you as an equal,
Our roots touching underground,
Our leaves touching in the clouds;
And with every gust of wind
We would bow to each other.
But no one else
Understands our language;
You have your branches
Like daggers or swords
While my big red flowers
Are heavy sighs.
Though it seems we are separated forever
We are eternally together;
This is great love,
This is fidelity.
Love ---
Not only for your splendid trunk
But also for the earth you stand on.

Shu Ting, translated by Carolyn Kizer in
Cool, Calm & Collected; poems 1960-2000, pages 481-482.

I have written here before, when I talked about Bei Dao and Gu Cheng, what clear memories I have of the reading at San Jose State by some of the Misty Poets, from China. That was the night I fell in love with Gu Cheng, who made his own hat! And watched Beo Dao, off to one side, look sardonically out at us all. Shu Ting was there, too, the only woman, with her translator, Carolyn Kizer, who seemed to be somewhat in charge of the whole event. (I can't remember everything! How I wish I had kept a journal, or at least an aide-memoire!) I remember Shu Ting as slight in person, and firm in presentation. And Kizer as majestic, like an empress. What amazing courage these young people had!

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