Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Only the moon now knows", Long Island Poem for Chinese New Year Sunday

Text of the original
To mark the Chinese New Year of 2013 let us read the haunting poem by Bai Juyi as translated and interpreted by John Digby and Lesli Bai.

Bai Juyi, a prolific poet, high governmental official, "pillar of society" owned many concubines, courtesans, and slave girls. Cruel by our standards, cruel by the standards of his own age (he lived 772–846), the poet was not insensitive to the plight of the unfortunate women.

Leslie comments on the poem: "Cast as a dramatic monologue, it expresses his conflicted emotions of compassion and affection, cruelty and loss."

Illustration by John Digby
Losing a Slave Girl
Bai Juyi
Translation by John Digby

My estate is enclosed by a low
wall of stones and rubble

You absconded
probably at night
and to be honest with you
I harbor no grudges

The population tally
of missing persons
was nailed to the gate
long after you fled

Now I know how unkind
and mean I was to you

Can't think of any caged bird
that doesn't want its freedom
or gale-blown flowers attempting
to cling to their branches

This evening
I sit pondering
whether you are running or hiding

Only the moon now knows
how much distance
has come between us

Losing a Slave Girl (March 2011), appreciation of the poem by Bai Juyi with English improvisation and illustrations by John Digby. Published by Prehensile Pencil Publications.
Reprinted with publisher's permission.

Previous Long Island Poem for Sunday - "Old hatred drifted in", Long Island Poem for Martin Luther King Sunday

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