Author's Note: I don't read Chinese, except for knowing that the character for "mountain" is also sometimes translated as "hill," as "slope," and as "incline." I do read all available translations of the old masters to triangulate what the original was trying to say, and then I try to say that in my version. I'm not a scholar, I'm a poet, and while these are not necessarily close translations, I always hope I have found the poetry the old ones were trying to give us.
After Lyou Chang-Ching's
"Going to Look for Master
Chang of South Stream"
Everywhere along the path I see footprints in the moss. I see fog on an island and grasses at the gate. I see the pines bright after rain. Walking the mountain I reach the source of the stream. The flowers there are what Zen means. Seeing them you don't need words.
After Bai Juyi's
"Sleeping on a Night
of Autumn Rain"
So cold, late in autumn. The old man content to settle in bed, the lamp already burning out. Sound of rain while he sleeps, stove still sweet with embers, the smell of fire warming him. Dawn comes. And he sleeps. Outside, frost has taken the last of his flowers.
After Li Po's
I was drinking my wine and failed to notice evening has come. Blossoms have fallen all around me. I rise, wobbly, and approach the moon where it settles on the water. Far off, there are birds. Here where I am, I am alone.
©2023 Tom Montag
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