20 September 2015

Red slip, white bones

Since You Left Home

The half-woven cloth has hung
          untouched on the loom
since you left home.
Missing you, I am
like the fair moon
waning, night
after night.
                     Zhang Jiuling (673-740)

The Bright Moon Night

Tonight, in your boudoir, alone,
you are watching the moon
shining over Fuzhou City,
out poor children still too young to share your longing
for me far, far away in Chang'an:
your long hair, cloud-like, wet
with the sweet night mist,
your bare, jade-smooth arms cold
in the clear moonlight.
Oh, when can we stand leaning against each
toher, against the curtain drawn aside,
letting the moonlight dry the tears
on both our faces?
                      Du Fu (712-770)

A Virtuous Wife

Knowing I am married, you gave me
a pair of lustrous pearls.
Beholden to you for your kindness,
I fastened them to my red slip.

My house is close to the Mingguang Palace,
where my husband serves as a guard.

Your intention is as lofty
as the sun and the moon, I know.
Having sworn to be with him
in life and death, I have
to return the glistening pearls to you
with tears in my eyes.
Oh, if we could have met
before I married.
                      Zhang Ju (?-830)

By the Wuding River

Pledged to wipe out the Huns,
they fought without a thought
for themselves, and died,
all of them, five thousand sable-clad warriors,
lost in the dust of North.
Alas, the white bones by the Wuding River
still come to haunt her spring dreams,
in the shape of her man.
                     Chen Tao (812-855)

To a Palace Lady

The moon moving beyond the trees
in the palace courtyard,
the egrets returning
to their nest in her lambent eyes,
under the lamp shadow,
she snatches out a jade hairpin
to save a struggling moth
by cutting through the red flame.
                    Zhang Hu (?-859)

From Treasury of Chinese Love Poems, trans. & ed. Qiu Xiaolong.

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