From Telling The Difference Recently in Journals Haiku, Senryu, Tanka Translations


From Santoka,
     translated with Emiko Miyashita
at high noon machines are given a break
into the begging bowl, too
a hailstone
the town's outskirts become a graveyard
the sound of waves
without a word
I put on today's straw sandals
dawn glow evening glow
nothing to eat
on occasion I knock off begging
and gaze at the mountains
a good inn
mountains on both sides
and facing a sake shop
across the water the whorehouse lights begin flickering
my hangover clears
the blinking stars
sakura sakura saku sakura chiru sakura

cherry tree
cherry blossoms
cherry blossoms scatter
cherry tree
this is the only path
spring snow falling
I can do nothing but walk
do nothing but return with grass seeds sticking to me

Guan Hanqin
     Translated with Alex To

Jade Plectrum

The maiden rests the zither upon
her knees. I sorrow and fear,
preoccupied with farewells. Coaxed
by her suave touch, music pellucid
like the wind wafts through checkered windows
toward a brilliant moon.
Beyond the sculpted balustrade—
night air, crystalline. Her delicate
fingering rouses my spirit. Listen—
how at midnight people stop, grow quiet.

                                                       International Poetry Review

why shouldn’t it return?
spring is back but not you
daily I yellow and weaken
growing light as willow fluff
all season no fish or geese bring news—
only two swallows nesting on the beams

handsome bastard!
gone to the end of the earth
where’s that green oak to tether your horse?
listless I sit under the south window
tallying days in the breeze, pining
my eyebrows gone pale, for whom should I repaint them?
my face grown so skinny, I’d be ashamed to wear a pomegranate blossom

wind blows and blows
drizzle after drizzle
even were I Chen Fu I couldn’t sleep
weariness and sorrow gripe at my gut
tears upon tears wet my lap
autumn’s cricket quits rasping, winter’s grasshopper begins to creak
drop by drop cold rain dampens the banana leaves

snowflake snowflake
burying the heavy door
unsure if my soul has abandoned me
wizened like Jiang Mei, I write a last poem
river river to what distant village does your clear water lead my eyes?
who notices me, cold in this perfumed boudoir?
what a meager form against the balustrade!

                                                       Asheville Poetry Review


Flowers, flowers, scramble over the wall.
Branches, branches of willow at the road’s dead end.
Flowers flaunt their new red pollen.
Green willows bend soft strands.
The players are all pimped out.
I break willows, trash flowers
until they’re thoroughly fucked up, dead.
Half my life I’ve pawed willows, snatched flowers,
all my years bedded flowers, laid willows.

Under heaven I’m the leader of young studs.
Worldwide I’m the playboys’ foreman.
I count on my rosy cheek not caving in.
I scrounge for my jollies among flowers.
I booze away my fear.
I bet on tea froth, ink blots.
I gamble on chess, horseshoes.
I’ve got five melodies, six tones down cold.
I kick worry away from my heart.
I’m hangin’ with three honeys. One strums a silvery zither. Another, perched at the silver
     counter, tallies silver nuggets. And a pricey call girl, all smiles, lounges against the silver
My white jade angel, your jade hand in mine, jade shoulder pressing mine, we’re climbing up
     inside the jade pagoda.
A songbird in a golden headdress drawls out “The Golden Net,” dandles a gilded cup brimful of
     gold nectar.
You say I’m old.
Not so fast!
Nobody throws a hipper party.
I’m with it, dialed-in.
I’m general of the silk brigade, the cool platoon.
I play in every city, province.

Dude, it’s me galloping the grasslands, the sandy steppes, hunting bunnies.
It’s me on horseback drawing my feathered bow at wild old pheasants.
I’ve stretched it and shot cold-forged arrows, not ones made of wax.
On a chase I never trail the pack.
Don’t they say you hit middle age it’s all over?
Do you think I’d piss away my springs and autumns?

I’m a brass broad bean. Steamed, I’m still firm. Boiled, I’m not tender. Pounded, unflattened. Roasted, unburst.
Your silk body armor’s not for me. Mine, a mattock can’t sever, a machete cut. It can’t be
stripped off, can’t be ripped.
Where I play: Liang Yuan Yue.
What I drink: Dung Jin.
What I prefer: flowers from Ruo Yan.
Where I climb: the willows of Zhan Tai.
I play go, kick the hacky sack, ride to hounds, do standup, song-and-dance, toodle the flute,
     invent music, scribble poems, lawn bowl.
Knock out my teeth, bust my jaw, break my leg, smash my arm—if heaven blesses me with all
     these maladies, I’ll still resist.
If Nian Wang, king of the underworld, shows up in person to summon me,
Sheng Gui, his enforcer, snatches at me with his hook,
three lost souls beckon me into the grave,
seven minor goblins try to drag me underground,
I’m first-off making a stop at the whorehouse.



Guan Hanqin (ca. 1225-1305)
     Yuan Dynasty physician, Chancellor of the Royal Academy of Medicine. Not only was he a major poet, he is considered one of the four leading playwrights of his era. Thirteen of his sixty plays have survived, as well as fifty-seven of his poems.

     According to legend Chen Fu slept for 100 days at a time.

     Jiang Mei, concubine of a Tung Dynasty Emperor, after falling from favor wrote poems, most concerning the transient nature of love.

I’m Not Old
     “The Golden Net:” a Tong Dynasty love song.
     Liang Yuan Yue: a royal garden built during the Han Dynasty.
     Dung Jin: wine from the East Capital (Han Dynasty).
     Ruo Yan: Henan Province city famous for its exquisite roses.
     “willows of Zhan Tai:” a metaphor for prostitutes.





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