Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Same Dream

 I wanted to use the poem by Su-Tung p'o, but have no river gorge pictures from China.
There is also a melancholy feeling to this road-travel picture from the Great American West,
taken through the car window a couple of years ago.

On a Boat, Awake at Night  (1079)
Faint wind rustles reeds and cattails;
I open the hatch, expecting rain–moon floods the lake.
Boatmen and water birds dream the same dream;
a big fish splashes off like a frightened fox.
It’s late–men and creatures forget each other
while my shadow and I amuse ourselves alone.
Dark tides creep over the flats–I pity the cold mud-worms;
the setting moon, caught in a willow, lights a dangling spider.
Life passes swiftly, hedged by sorrow;
how long before you’ve lost it–a scene like this?
Cocks crow, bells ring, a hundred birds scatter;
drums pound from the bow, shout answers shout.

Su Tung-p'o             
Translated by Burton Watson

(Line 12. Drums were sounded in the bow when boats were under way.) Translator's note.

Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o; translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson., 
Copper Canyon Press, 1994, page 77.

Sometime, when you are alone at night, perhaps far from home, or from a lost home, let your mind wander over the landscape where you are, and write down whatever thoughts come up about where you are, what creatures are there, and what you think you know.

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