Three Poems

Yang Mu

The Star Is the Only Guide

1.

In the zone of rain shadows, at the moment of losing
My winding way, the star is the only guide

Your contemplation is an ocean, you are endless brooding
At night, in the morning, at the moment when mountain shadows
Retreat from my side table, we recall the time before exile

For the second time, you take off softly from
My backward gaze. Oh my God—with the first posted mail
She stood amid blown-about rotting leaves
That night, in the downpour of lost love
Loneliness and morning bell chimes set you ablaze
It was me with a downward gaze
In my youthful gallop, you were the wind full in my face

2.

From your painted red window, I see your disillusionment
As seasonal rotation. The star is the only guide
Memory of you, and the memory of this street, fades
In wisdom, you are the encounter that breaks open my understanding
               with the elusive fleeting of the universe
Your smile makes a rose emerge on my wrist

Such is remembrance, in your Monte Carlo
On the sixth side of a die, in a fan-shaped alluvial land
Suppose you were





Rabbits

          —On what I saw on July 20 at Dong Hwa University

The Male Flapper:

          An excellent game: come to the Fusang Tree
          Whose giant shadow
          Overflows with rain. My front feet,
          in disarray from midnight
          bounding, make a quick circle,
          now rolling to the left, now to the right

The Misty-Eyed Female:

          Like halved circular arcs
          Of dewdrops at dawn, inexhaustible
          Delusions, through sunlight's prism to focus
          On the male in constant change
          Moving continually toward the end of Time
          As if painstakingly, or perhaps hypocritically
          Under the gaze of my loving, crystalline
          Lashless eyes—
          Only truth brightly belongs to the eternal

The Male Flapper:

          In theory, Time has no bounds—it is
          Only fitting to duplicate Beauty repeatedly
          By the great Golden Ratio
          What a shame it doesn't apply to flesh
          Yet, I have never doubted my innate intelligence,
          Imagination, and profound creativity
          Only my fading fur and colors,
          My weakening sinews and bones—even the great Craftsman
          Can't figure out a solution, watching it stumble toward
          Deterioration: on the prairie of high summer
          Lingering steps are heart-rending

The Misty-Eyed Female:

          Here I sit, so close to you, my pupils reflecting
          The ball of ultraviolet yarns enflamed by the sun
          I believe in the quest and attainment of art
          And music, I place them in
          Specific Time and Space, one by one
          They burn and diffuse through eternity
          As proven by theory and in practice,
          Only that which is released from abstract originality
          Is worthy and can be duplicated. A robust,
          Harmonious heart brings Love and Beauty to
          Completion. Please, sit down and write something for us.





Water's Edge

I've been sitting here for four afternoons
Not a single person passes by—not to mention any sound of footsteps

(In loneliness—)

Spider Brake grows from the crotch of my pants up to my shoulder
          Covering me for no reason
The cascade of flowing water is an indelible memory
All I can do is let it be scripted on a stilled cloud

Twenty meters to the south, a dandelion giggles
The pollen of the wind-pollinated flower lodges onto my bamboo hat
What can my hat offer you, come on,
What can my shadow, lying down, offer you

Compare four afternoons of the water's sound to four afternoons of footsteps
Suppose they were some impatient teenage girls
Bickering endlessly among themselves—
Well then, let none of them come. All I want is an afternoon nap
Well, let none of them come


translated from the Chinese by Michelle Yeh and Arthur Sze



Read the original in Chinese, Traditional

Yang Mu is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Washington and also dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan. He is the author, editor, and translator of over forty books of poetry and prose. As a poet, Yang Mu demonstrates a profound knowledge of the Chinese poetic tradition, but he is also one of its foremost innovators.

Michelle Yeh is Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Davis. She is the author of Modern Chinese Poetry and editor of Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry, both published by Yale University Press. Other publications include No Trace of the Gardener: Poems of Yang Mu, and Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry.

Arthur Sze is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Ginkgo Light, Quipu, The Redshifting Web, and Archipelago from Copper Canyon Press. He is also a translator and editor and has published The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese and edited Chinese Writers on Writing. A professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts, he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



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